The Bombay High Court, in a series of directions passed over the past two months, has directed the state government to ensure that shop owners dealing in veterinary products do not sell these products without a prescription. Also, the court directed the state animal husbandry department to regulate the poultry business to ensure that no chemicals or growth hormones are added.
A division bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice GS Kulkarni was hearing a PIL filed by Citizen Circle for Social Welfare and Education seeking directions for prohibiting usage of excess amounts of pesticides by farmers, usage of chemicals by street vendors of fruits and vegetables for artificial ripening, usage of growth hormones and pig fat by poultry farmers etc.
The PIL seeks an embargo on the sale of genetically-treated chicken and chicken containing antibiotics by multinational fast food brands like McDonalds and Subway.
It is also claimed in the PIL that farmers use pesticides in excess in order to fasten the growth of the vegetable and due to this excess use of pesticides, 20 farmers died in Maharashtra on October 8, 2017.
As much as 34 percent of the fruits and vegetables exported to Switzerland contains pesticides beyond the prescribed limit set by the European Union, the PIL stated.
Apart from the Union and the State, Food and Drug Administration, Food and Safety Commissioner of Maharashtra are respondents in the PIL.
Advocate Syed Shehzad Naqvi appeared on behalf of the petitioners. He submitted that under the provisions of The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, the Commissioner of Food Safety and Animal Husbandry of the State of Maharashtra is empowered to grant necessary permission/license to run a poultry farm, to enter the farm premises for verification as to whether the poultry birds are given proper food strictly in accordance with law which is suitable for human consumption. Naqvi said probiotic and antibiotics were administered to the birds which is not suitable for human consumption.
Government Pleader Poornima Kantharia submitted that the state animal husbandry department was looking into the issues raised in the PIL, especially regulation of poultry business in Maharashtra.
In an earlier hearing on June 25, 2018, the bench directed the state government to ensure that shop owners dealing in veterinary products do not sell them over the counter without prescription. Thereafter, on July 25, the court said: “We clarify that proceedings of this public interest litigation are aimed at sole objective that the birds which are grown in the poultry farm are not administered any substance which is not fit for human consumption. Even after they are brought in the market, appropriate stringent checks must be carried out by the Inspector of the concerned department so that public is not affected. We expect the concerned department to regulate sale of poultry animals in the general market and maintain an appropriate record of inspection which could be called in the Court for verification. Inspectors shall be deputed by the concerned department in every area who shall carry out such checks.”
The animal husbandry department has also been directed to issue advisories to poultry farms in the state to regulate poultry business in a way that the bird is fit for human consumption, healthy and free of any disease.