SC Notice On Plea For Banning 85 Pesticides, Many Not Reviewed By Expert Committee
Application also seeks diverse experts to review pesticides
The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice on an application seeking direction to the Centre to review 85 pesticides, besides the 99 forming the subject matter of the main petition seeking a ban on pesticides with grave health and environmental hazards.
A bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Vineet Saran issued notice on an application moved by Kavitha Kuruganti, which says many of these 85 pesticides have not even been reviewed by the Anupam Verma committee which had been set to review the use of 66 pesticides which were barred/restricted in other countries.
The petitioner had in October 2017 moved the apex court seeking a ban on 99 pesticides which had been banned by other countries but continue to be manufactured and used in India.
In the application seeking check on 85 other pesticides, petitioner’s counsel advocate Prashant Bhushan assisted by advocate Omanakuttan argued that, “A revised comparison of registered pesticides in India with bans in other countries (one or more other countries) shows that the list is actually of 103 such pesticides, whereas the Anupam Verma Committee had reviewed only 66 pesticides out of which the August 2018 Gazette Notification took decisive action on only 18 pesticides (within which six will be phased out only by 2020).
“Petitioners also have evidence to show from official consumption data that several of the pesticides covered in the said ban order were in any case not being consumed in a negligible fashion, which points to the fact that the Anupam Verma Committee seemed to have taken the easier option of banning those which were being used in low or negligible manner in any case,” said the application.
“This means that India is continuing to have at least 85 pesticides on which positive action is still awaited so that human lives, health and environment can be protected from the harmful effects of such pesticides,” it added.
The application also prayed that all pesticides be reviewed and the review committee should include independent health experts working on the issue of health impacts of pesticides, state government representatives and also experts from the ecological agriculture field.
It also prayed that state governments be empowered to decide on state-level prohibition and restriction on pesticides based on due processes adopted by them regarding its socio-economic, health and environmental impacts.
The petitioner said despite agriculture being in the State List, the Insecticides Act gives only limited powers to the state governments wherein it can prohibit the sale of any insecticide on the ground of public safety for maximum 90 days pending investigation and the prohibition order, if any, has to be finally passed by the Centre.
Citing this lack of authority with the state government, the application cited how an order issued by the Punjab government in January 2018 discontinuing the sale of 20 insecticides could only be in force for 60 days.
Welcoming the August, 2018 order banning 11 pesticides, including carbaryl (used in paddy, cotton etc), diazinon (household pest control), fenarimol (fungicide used on apples), and phasing out six others, the application said the same was as recommended by the Anupam Verma committee which had no health experts or public-spirited civil society experts who have experience in alternatives to toxic chemicals when it comes to plant protection.
“…these Committees have been heavily influenced by pesticides industry’s participation as well as agriculture scientists whose expertise has been in synthetic pesticides based plant protection,” it said while demanding inclusion of a more diverse group of experts in the review process.