(Common Prayer: Writ Petitions filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, praying to issue a Writ of Prohibition, prohibiting the Respondents from collecting samples and testing the Petitioner's Milk and milk products without authority of law.)
1. The present case is filed to issue a writ of prohibition, prohibiting the respondents from collecting samples and testing the petitioners' milk and milk products without authority of law.
2. The learned Senior counsel appearing for the writ petitioners' company made a submission that the writ petitioners are constrained to move the writ of prohibition only on the ground that certain personal allegations are raised against the writ petitioners' company by the fourth respondent. In view of the fact, that the fourth respondent has raised certain personal allegations and tested the products of the writ petitioner without following procedures contemplated under the Food Safety Act 2006, the writ petitioners are constrained to move the present writ petitions. The learned Senior counsel is fair enough to make a submission that the writ petitioner is ready to face the procedures contemplated under the law if their products are tested under the Food Safety Act and other relevant statutes.
3. This apart, the grievances of the writ petitioners are that the samples were collected from an unidentified location, wherein, the genuinity of the products itself is questionable and therefore such a procedure adopted can never be trusted upon. The very procedure adopted by the respondents 1 and 3 for taking the samples in respect of the products of the writ petitioner itself is not in accordance with law. In this view of the matter, the order of prohibition is warranted.
4. The learned Advocate General appearing on behalf of the respondents 1, 2 and 3 opposed the contentions by stating that the allegations set out in the writ petitions are incorrect. The respondents 1,2 and 3 are bound to follow the procedure contemplated under the law in respect of testing the food products and the milk products. In this regard the learned Advocate General cited a Judgment of the Honourable Supreme Court rendered in the case of 'Swamy Achyutanand Tirth & others vs Union of India and others in Writ Petition (c) No.159 of 2012'. The Honourable Supreme Court considered the seriousness of adulterations in milk products and discussed the consequences and issued the following directions:-
'Considering the Seriousness of the matter and in the light of various orders passed by this Court, the Writ Petition is disposed of with the following directions and observations:-
(i) Union of India and the state Government shall take appropriate steps to implement Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 in a more effective manner.
(ii) States shall take appropriate steps to inform owner of dairy, dairy operators and retailers working in the State that if Chemical adulterants like pesticides, caustic soda and other chemicals are found in the milk, then stringent action will be taken on the State Dairy Operators or retailers or all the persons involved in the same.
(iii) State Food Safety Authority should also identify high risk areas (where there is greater presence of petty food manufacturer/business operator etc.) and times (near festivals etc.) when there is risk of ingesting adulterated milk or milk products due to environmental and other factors and greater number of food samples should be taken from those areas.
(iv) State Food Safety Authorities should also ensure that there is adequate lab testing infrastructure and ensure that all labs have/obtain NABL accreditation to facilitate precise testing. State Government to ensure that State fool testing laboratories/district food laboratories are well-equipped with the technical persons and testing facilities.
(v) Special measures should be undertaken by the State Food Safety Authorities (SFSA) and District Authorities for sampling of milk and milk products, including spot testing through Mobile Food Testing Vans equipped with primary testing kits for conducting qualitative test of adulteration in food.
(vi) Since the snap short survey conducted in 2011 revealed adulteration of milk by hazardous substances including chemicals, such snap short surveys to be conducted periodically both in the State as well as at the national level by FSSAI.
(vii) For curbing milk adulteration, an appropriate State level committee headed by the Chief Secretary or the secretary of the Dairy Department and District level Committee headed by the concerned District Collector shall be constituted as is done in the State of Maharashtra to take the review of the work done to curb the milk adulteration in the district and in the State by the authorities.
(viii) To prevent adulteration of milk, the concerned State Department shall set up a website thereby specifying the functioning and responsibilities of food safety authorities and also creating awareness about complaint mechanisms. In the website, the contact details of the Joint Commissioners including the Food Safety Commissioners shall be made available for registering the complaints on the said website. All States should also have and maintain toll free telephonic and online complaint mechanism.
(ix) In order to increase consumer awareness about ill effects of milk adulteration as stipulated in Section 18(1)(f) the States/Food Authority/Commissioner of Food Safety shall inform the general public of the nature of risk to health and create awareness of Food Safety and Standards. They should also educate school children by conducting workshops and teaching them easy methods for detection of common adulterants in food, keeping in mind indigenous technological innovations (such as milk adulteration detection strips etc.)
(x) Union of India/State Governments to evolve a complaint mechanism for checking corruption and other unethical practices of the Food Authorities and their officers.'
5. The learned Advocate General states that pursuant to the order of the Honourable Supreme Court, the Government took the seriousness of the issue involved in adulteration of the milk products and issued Government Order in G.O.(D) No.1293, Health and Family Welfare (M.1) Department, dated 15.06.2017 and the said Government Order was passed with reference to Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. The said order reads as under:-
In the Government order first read above, orders have been issued to constitute a state level Steering Committee under the Chairmanship of Chief Secretary and District level Steering Committees under the Chairmanship of District Collectors with the following members for the smooth operationalisation of statutory provisions of Tamil Nadu Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006:
State Level Steering Committee:-
i). Chief SecretaryChair Person
ii). Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department Member
iii). Commissioner, Food Safety and Drug Administration Department Member Convener
iv) Secretary, Municipal Administration and Water Supply Member
v). Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayat raj Member
vi). Designated Officer, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, Chennai Member
vii). Representative from FICCI of local chapters of Chennai Region Member
Viii). Representative from Hotels Association Member
ix). Representative from Grain Merchants Association Member
x). Representative from Merchants AssociationMember
xi). Representative from Consumer Association Member
District Level Steering Committee:-
i) District Collector Chair Person
ii) Deputy Director of Health Services Member
iii) Designated Officer Member Convener
iv) Commissioner, Municipality/Corporation Member
v) District Project Officer ICDSMember
vi) Assistant Director District Panchayat Member
vii) Representative from District Hotel Association Member
Viii)Representative from other Food Business Operator's Member
xi) Representative from Consumer Association Member
3. Now, the Commissioner, Tamil Nadu Food Safety and Drug Administration in her letter second read above has stated that there are reports of adulteration in Milk and Milk Products and Sago in the State. Therefore, the Commissioner has requested to include the following members in the State Level Steering /District Level Steering
I.State Level Steering committee:-
1.Secretary of Animal Husbandary and Dairy Development Department.
2.Director for Milk Production and Dairy Development.
3.Managing Director, SAGO SERVE, Salem.
II. District Level Steering committee:-
Deputy Registrar (Dairying).
4. The Government after careful examination accept the proposal of the commissioner, Tamil Nadu Food safety and Drug Administration Department and have decided to accept it. Accordingly, in supression of the earlier orders issued in the Government order first read above the Government reconstitute the State Level Steering Committee and the District Level Steering with the following members:-
State Level Steering committee:-
i) Chief SecretaryChair Person
ii) Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department Member
iii) Principal Secretary, Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries Department Member
iv) Commissioner, Food Safety and Drug Administration Department Member Convener
v) Director of Milk Production Dairy Development Member
vi) Secretary, Municipal Administration and Water Supply Member
vii) Secretary,Rural Development and Panchayat raj Member
Viii)Managing Director, Sago Serve, Salem Member
xi) Designated Officer, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, Chennai Member
x) Representative from FICCI of local chapters of Chennai Region Member
xi) Representative from Hotels Association Member
Xii) Representative from Grain Merchants Association Member
Xiii) Representative from Merchants Association Member
Xiv) Representative from Consumer Association Member
DISTRICT LEVEL STEERING COMMITTEE:
i) District Collector Chair Person
ii) Deputy Director of Health Services Member
Iii) Deputy Registrar (Dairying) Member
iv) Designated Officer Member Convener
v) Commissioner, Municipality/Corporation Member
vi) District Project Officer ICDS Member
Vii) Assistant Director, District Panchayat Member
Viii)Representative from District Hotel Association Member
ix) Representative from other Food business operator's Member
x) Representative from Consumer Association Member'
6. Pursuant to the orders of the Government State Level Steering committees and District Level Steering committees were constituted for the purpose of dealing with the issues concerned. In the event of any complaint by any person or on their own motion, the committee is empowered to test the milk products, if there is any doubt or otherwise. The State Level Steering Committee and District Level Steering Committees are empowered to test the milk products through the recognized laboratories and if any adulterations are found true, they are empowered to prosecute and proceed against the offenders in accordance with law.
7. Paragraph 22 clause 4 of the order of the Honourable Supreme Court ambiguously states that, ' State Food Safety Authorities should also ensure that there is adequate lab testing infrastructure and ensure that all labs have/obtain NABL accreditation to facilitate precise testing. State Government to ensure that State food testing laboratories/district food laboratories are well-equipped with the technical persons and testing facilities.'
8. This being the procedures, to be followed by the State while undertaking the process of testing of milk products, the very apprehension raised in the writ petition deserves no further consideration. The very apprehension of the writ petitioner is that the products of the petitioner are not tested in the manner prescribed under law. Now that the Honourable Supreme Court issued directions to the State to provide adequate testing facilities and the laboratories should obtain NABL accreditation to facilitate precise testing. Beyond this the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 also provides that testing of milk products can be undertaken by such laboratories.
9. The Food Safety and Standards (Laboratory and Sampling Analysis Regulations) 2011 provides procedures for testing the milk products and allied products and the qualified laboratories are also notified under the Regulations. Thus, there is no impediment for the competent authorities to test all the milk products in accordance with the procedures contemplated under the Food Safety Act and under the relevant Regulations, including Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, Food Safety and Standards Rules, 2011, Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Regulation, 2011, Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011, Food Safety and Standards (Laboratory and Sampling Analysis) Regulation, 2011, Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulation, 2011, Food Safety and Stand
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ards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulation, 2011 and Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011 (Part II). 10. This court, at this point of time, is not inclined to consider certain personal allegations raised by the writ petitioners as well as by the fourth respondent in this writ petition and the same are not relevant and necessary, in view of the fact that the State has already issued orders implementing the orders of the Honourable Supreme Court in respect of the constitution of laboratories and testing of milk products. 11. It is needless to state that, while undertaking the process of testing, the authorities competent are bound to follow the procedures and the law in this regard. This being the principles to be followed, it is made clear that the writ petitioners also shall co-operate in the event of any testing, to be conducted in respect of the products of the writ petitioners. 12. Thus, it is made clear that the State should ensure supply of unadulterated milk products to the citizen and there cannot be any violations in this regard by either of the parties. The companies who are producing milk related products must also ensure that there is no adulteration and in the event of any violations, stringent actions are to be initiated in the manner known to law. 13. With these observations and directions, the writ petitions are disposed of. No costs. Consequently, connected miscellaneous petitions are closed.