No legal cell to prosecute food adulteration, offenders escape by going to court

No legal cell to prosecute food adulteration, offenders escape by going to court
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More than 1,000 cases pending, only 4 convictions

Srinagar: More than a thousand cases of food adulteration are pending in different courts of Jammu and Kashmir for the past many years, because the Drug and Food Control Organisation (DFCO) has failed to present strong evidence against the offenders.
As per official figures, only four companies were convicted between April 2016 and August 2017 while four of the accused were acquitted during this period.
Official sources told Kashmir Reader that nearly 300 cases of food adulteration are pending in Srinagar district alone.
“Approaching court is seen as an easy escape route by all offenders, as they are aware of the flaws in DFCO when it comes to legal matters,” said a food safety officer (FSO).
As per official figures, 1,347 cases have been registered against various food units and companies and Rs 1 crore fine has been realised from them. Most of these companies and food business operators have gone to court to get a stay on official orders and cases against them linger on.
“There is no separate legal cell in our department. That is why cases get delayed for years together. The cell would have helped us prepare a strong case, but the companies against which we are fighting cases have much stronger legal defence, which is why they get acquitted,” said a senior official in DFCO.
The food wing of the organisation has launched 1,109 prosecution cases in the last one year while 1,078 cases are still pending in various courts of the state.
“During this period only four companies could be prosecuted,” official documents say.
Assistant Commissioner Food Safety Officer in Srinagar, Hilal Ahmad Mir, admitted that huge number of cases of food adulteration are pending in the City. He said it is up to the courts to decide them.
“We have now a food safety appellate tribunal before which we can file an appeal if the adjudicating office imposes less penalty,” he said.
“There is a huge difference between unsafe and substandard food. The compounding provision is only for substandard food and not for unsafe one. For unsafe food a minimum jail term of 6 months is prescribed,” Mir said.
Deputy Controller Food Safety J&K Irfana Ahmed refused to comment on the matter. “I cannot talk as I am busy,” she said.