In a landmark judgment,the Himachal Pradesh High Court Thursday cleared the decks for stopping the sale of potato chips,wafers and all junk food items packaged in plastic and non-biodegradable material from January 26.
The court vacated its stay on a notification issued by the Department of Science,Technology and Environment on June 26,2013,imposing a ban on sale,storage,entry,supply and manufacture of these items in the state. It directed the government to strictly enforce the ban on non-essential food items. The ban will not cover plastic drinking water bottles.
A division bench comprising Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice V K Sharma also directed the government to ensure that edible oils/fats are packed in tin containers and not plastic bottles or pouches.
From March 31,as per the court order,milk and milk products,edible oils/fats,fruits,vegetables and meat products will be manufactured,transported,sold,packaged and distributed as per the Food Safety & Standards (Packaging & Labelling) Regulation,2011.
While directing the state to appoint a Food Commissioner within four weeks,the court asked the government to ensure that no person is permitted to start or continue any food business without obtaining the required licence.
The court order on Thursday came after hearing a plea filed by dealers and manufacturers of packaged food items,challenging the governments notification.
The bench rejected the petitioners argument that the court encroached the area of legislation by issuing such orders. Courts do not legislate by pronouncing judgments and issuing necessary directions. Courts only recognise and enforce fundamental,constitutional and legal rights of the parties. The orders were passed by the court after hearing the parties and weighing pros and cons to safeguard health of citizens and natural environment of the State, the judgment reads.
The court directed the state to lay down norms as per Section 3A of the HP Non-biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act,1995,within 12 weeks and implement Section 7 of the said Act in order to determine new non-essential food items,which are required to be manufactured,transported,sold,packaged and distributed in biodegradable material by constituting a committee comprising officers not below the rank of the Principal Secretary.
The court gave the government 12 weeks to ensure that the necessary by laws are incorporated in Municipal Corporation Rules,Municipal Council and Nagar Panchayat Rules.