Govt assures advanced food testing labs will be set up in Srinagar, Jammu soon without waiting for Delhi’s assistance
Srinagar: The authorities are required to show ‘soul deep’ concern to ameliorate the sufferings of people caused by food adulteration in the state, the J&K high court said on Saturday, even as the government submitted that it will soon set up technologically advanced laboratories in Srinagar and Jammu.
The authorities tasked with implementing the Food Safety and Standard Act of 2006 have “exhibited only skin-deep concern” towards the sufferings of the people and they need to show “soul-deep concern”, a bench of justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Mohammad Magrey said while hearing suo-moto Public Interest Litigation.
“This is not the question of a small water body and encroachments on it which we can demolish. It concerns the health of all of us, rich and poor, ruler and the ruled. Everybody’s health is involved in this issue but there is sad state of affairs,” the bench said.
The court observed that state’s top civil officer and senior functionaries were asked to appear in person because FSSA authorities stated that two food testing laboratories, one each in Jammu and Srinagar, are not only outdated but literally non-functional.
Chief secretary BR Sharma admitted the FSSA 2006 has not been implemented in the manner it should have been.
He assured the court he will immediately review all aspects concerning its implementation and a laboratory each at Jammu and Srinagar will be set up soon without waiting for financial assistance from the government of India.
Sharma also assured that mobile testing labs will be provided to the departments concerned and the authorities created in terms of legislation will also be put in place shortly.
“In view of the assurance given by the chief secretary we defer recommending initiation of the disciplinary action against the authorities who failed to implement the Act till date,” the court said.
In another direction, it directed Khyber Agro Farms Private Limited to file an undertaking, as directed previously, along with other food companies, that in case the company’s food items were found adulterated, it was liable to be sealed.
“The managing director, Khyber Agro Farms, to file the undertaking in terms of (previous) court order before the next date,” the court said, adding that if the Khyber and other companies failed to file the undertakings, then appropriate orders will be passed on the next date of hearing.
The Khyber’s Managing Director Rouf Ahmad Tramboo had filed an affidavit stating that the company is having a fully functional chemical and microbiological laboratory for testing of milk and related products.
“Every test including of dairy products, food products are being done in the laboratory for the safety of people, which is the utmost priority of the company,” he said in the affidavit.
Senior advocate ZA Shah, representing the company, said that his client has suffered conviction and sentence by judicial magistrate Budgam. Consequent to it, he said, Khyber has stopped production. He said that a report of the public analyst was awaited, though the report from an accredited laboratory has been received.
Last month, the court said the people of the state have been ‘left at the mercy of God’ as there are no laboratories and other paraphernalia available to check food adulteration in the state.
It made the Chief Secretary, Commissioner Secretary Health, Commissioner Food Safety, Financial Commissioner (Planning) and owners and MDs of food manufacturing or processing units, whose details have been given by the government in the status report, a party to the PIL.
In another direction, the court had directed the owners and MDs of food manufacturing or processing units to file affidavits indicating as to how and in what manner they are adhering to the FSSA 2006.
“As the act & rules are there they are to be followed. Why should you do the business if you are not in a position to follow the act? Then do away with your business,” the court observed after hearing an advocate, appearing for about 35 spice unit holders.
“The act is to be enforced at any cost. No excuse to be accepted. We will order cancelling of your licences if you do not follow the Act. We will not allow any breach of the Act and Rules for commercial activities and cannot make people to suffer,” the court said.
In another direction, the court also directed the Commissioner Food Safety to provide full information and particulars of food manufacturers, processors/suppliers/persons/companies who are from outside the state and supply food items to Jammu and Kashmir by next date of hearing.