28 March 2023 9:59 AM GMT
In a plea seeking weeding out of harmful chemicals and pesticides being used in India causing severe health hazards to farm workers, people living in the vicinity, and the consumers, the Supreme Court asked the Union Government why action had only been taken with respect to three pesticides. The bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala also directed...
In a plea seeking weeding out of harmful chemicals and pesticides being used in India causing severe health hazards to farm workers, people living in the vicinity, and the consumers, the Supreme Court asked the Union Government why action had only been taken with respect to three pesticides. The bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala also directed the Union Government to place on the record two expert committee reports on the matter, namely, the Dr S K Khurana Sub Committee report and report of the Committee chaired by Dr T P Rajendran.
At the outset, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Vikramjit Banerjee appearing for the Central government argued that the petitioner cannot keep on coming up with a list of pesticides they want to be banned. "This will lead to a lot of unscrupulous people wanting things to be banned. We have a continuous process, there is a regime in place and if he is aggrieved by the same there is a process of representation", ASG said.
To this, CJI DY Chandrachud remarked-
"They came here because they're saying that there are 18 hazardous pesticides which have a particularly dangerous effects on children. They say that all 18 have been banned in many of the developed countries."
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, for the petitioner, submitted -
"27 pesticides, according to their own affidavit had been found to be fit for banning as per expert committee. That expert committee report had been accepted by the review committee and a draft notification had also been prepared for banning those 27 pesticides. Yet, several years after the original report of the expert committee, only 3 out of 27 have been banned."
The bench enquired why the government had only banned three out of the 27 pesticides. To this, ASG responded stating that there existed a process as per which the banning was carried out. He added–
"My learned friend is saying as if we can pick and choose. It is a scientific process."
At this juncture, the court directed the following–
1. The Union Government shall place on the record the final report of the Dr S K Khurana Sub Committee and the report dated 6 September 2022 of the Committee chaired by Dr T P Rajendran;
2. The Union Government shall also file a further affidavit explaining the basis on which action has been taken presently only with respect to three pesticides in the notification dated 2 February 2023, within a period of four weeks.
The matter is now listed on 28 April 2023.
The petition filed through Advocate, Prashant Bhushan seeks enforcement of the right to health of farmers, farm workers as well as consumers by banning 99 harmful pesticides that are used in India but have been banned by other countries and at least an additional six more that are used in India and have been withdrawn or restricted by other countries. It cites instances of severe environment and health hazards caused by pesticides, particularly in Punjab, Kerala and Maharashtra. The plea refers to studies that have linked pesticides use by the farmers and their suicidal tendencies. Cancer, DNA damage, damage to the brain and nervous system, Parkinson’s Disease, Birth Defects, Immunological changes, and adverse effects on the physical and mental development of children in farmers and farm workers and their families were indicated as some of the health risks associated with use of pesticides.
Subsequently, an application was filed 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. The application argues that the 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 banned in other countries. The application further prays 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.
Case Title: Vanashakti And Ors. v. UoI And Ors. WP(C) No. 237/2017 PIL
Click Here To Read Order