Underscoring that there is no Food Testing Laboratory worth the name in Jammu and Kashmir, the High Court on Monday observed that it appears people in the state are made to "consume adulterated food."
"There is no food testing laboratory worth the name under Jammu and Kashmir Food Safety and Standards Act in the state. It appears that people of the state are made to consume adulterated food," a division bench of Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey said.
"All those responsible to check this adulteration probably have forgotten to perform their statutory duty," the bench observed while hearing a Public Interest Litigation against food adulteration. The observations came after the bench was informed that there are no Food Analysis Laboratories in the state.
"The statement made at bar by learned counsel for the respondents and even by Commissioner Food Safety is enough to shake conscience of every sensitive soul, in so much as, there is no paraphernalia available in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the mandate contained in provisions of Jammu and Kashmir Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006," the bench observed.
The court however directed the government to furnish by April 27 details about the paraphernalia available with it to curb food adulteration in the state.
Expressing dissatisfaction over the status report filed, the court observed that the report does not comply with its directions issued on last date of hearing.
"By or before next date, the information sought by the court on last date and suggestions made by the learned Amicus shall be adequately responded," the bench said.
Disapproving government's approach to "wink" at a serious issue of food adulteration, the bench made strong observations. "You need people only at the time of voting and thereafter don't care for them even though they consume dangerous adulterated food stuff," it observed.
"People don't matter for you, money matters. How you allow people to consume food stuff which is not being cross-checked. How is the food stuff being permitted to trickle in the market if you have no testing labs? There is nothing but nexus," the bench observed. "Who will compensate those who suffer from chronic fatal diseases?"
Observing that food processing units under the Act must have their own laboratories to test and certify products, the bench asked: "How they have been given licenses without verifying whether the testing laboratory is available or not?"
Senior Counsel and Amicus in the case, Bashir Ahmad Bashir pleaded that Drug and Food Control Organization is headless as the Health Commissioner has been given additional charge while as per the Act the Commissioner should be appointed substantively and independently on the post.
The Amicus pleaded that despite court directions for furnishing names of the concerned officials working in the department under the Act, none was provided, which, he said, made the compliance more doubtful.
"Four years ago the government assured the court that there will be a full-fledged Food Safety Commissioner but there is still none," he pleaded.
On April 13, the High Court while taking on record suggestions made by Amicus on curbing of menace of food adulteration, had directed the government to file response to the suggestions.
After taking suo-moto cognizance of news reports in Greater Kashmir on food adulteration and rising cancer incidence in the Valley last month, the High Court treated the reports as a Public Interest Litigation and initiated its own proceedings against the government.