Constituted over a year back, Food Safety Tribunals remain victims of Govt apathy

*Objectives behind Act enacted 11 yrs back yet to be achieved

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Apr 21: In a testimony of non-serious approach towards various aspects of food safety, the Government has failed to provide staff and other paraphernalia to the Food Safety and Appellate Tribunals, which were created by it over a year back that too after being reprimanded by the Supreme Court as well as State High Court. In this way, the objectives behind Food Safety and Standard Act and Rules could not be achieved despite lapse of several years.
The Food Safety and Standards Act was enacted in 2006 but its rules were framed in 2011 after a lapse of five years, which was the testimony of non-serious approach towards the important piece of legislation right from the very beginning.
After being reprimanded by the Supreme Court and High Court of Jammu and Kashmir over tardy implementation of this Act, the Department of Health and Medical Education vide SRO No.42 of 2016 dated February 10, 2016 and as per Rule 3.2.2 of the Food Safety and Standard Rules, 2011 established two Food Safety Appellate Tribunals—one each for Jammu and Kashmir.
Thereafter, no attention was paid towards making these Tribunals functional and Government woke up from the deep slumber only when the State High Court issued directions about appointment of Presiding Officers in Public Interest Litigations (PILs) with the observation that purpose of establishment of Tribunals was getting defeated due to inaction on the part of Government in general and Health and Medical Education Department in particular.
Finally, vide SRO No.371 dated November 18, 2016, the Health and Medical Education Department in exercise of powers conferred under Sub-Section 3 of Section 70 of Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006 read with Rule 3.2.1 of Food Safety and Standard Rules, 2011 appointed Mohammad Yousuf Akhoon, former Principal Secretary to Chief Justice, J&K High Court and Maharaj Krishan Hanjura, Member Company Law Board Delhi as Presiding Officers of Food Safety Appellate Tribunals.
These Tribunals are required to hear appeals from the decisions of the Adjudicating Officers under Section 68 of the Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006. The Additional Deputy Commissioners of every district have been designated as Adjudicating Officer as per the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
The appointment of Presiding Officers of Food Safety Appellate Tribunals was welcomed in the wake of large number of pending cases related to unsafe, substandard and misbranded food products and items with the District Magistrates and in civil courts.
“However, Food Safety Appellate Tribunals have remained victims of Gover-nment apathy even more than one year after their establishment as now the Government is soft-paddling on providing requisite staff and other paraphernalia to these Tribunals, which otherwise is hampering their functioning”, sources said.
They further said, “the dilly-dallying approach is notwithstanding the fact that Division Bench of State High Court had last month viewed seriously the failure of the Government to provide all the facilities to the Tribunals required for ensuring their smooth functioning”, adding “though it was submitted before the Division Bench that posts have been created for both the Tribunals but where the process of making selection has struck is not known to anybody as Presiding Officers are still awaiting permanent staff”.
“Only few officials have been placed at the disposal of one Tribunal by making internal arrangement while as nobody is available with the second Tribunal”, sources said, adding “unless posts created for these Tribunals are filled-up none can expect full functioning of these important bodies”.
It is pertinent to mention here that Division Bench of High Court in its order dated March 14, 2017 had termed the compliance report filed by the Health and Medical Education Department as an eye-wash. It had even observed that budgetary allocation was not made to the Tribunals for the development of infrastructure.
“Due to the apathy of the Government, the objectives behind enactment of Food Safety and Standard Act could not be achieved despite lapse of 11 years”, sources remarked, adding “it is a matter of serious concern that Government is adopting dilly-dallying appr-oach in meeting the requirements of the Tribunals, which have an important role to play in food safety matters”.

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