Ashutosh Sarkar

he High Court yesterday gave the government a number of directives to stop the use of chemicals for ripening and preserving fruits and the sale of those contaminated fruits, a public health concern.

The court, in response to a public interest writ petition, ordered Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institute (BSTI) and Rapid Action Battalion to continuously monitor fruit depots in Dhaka so that contaminated fruits cannot be stored or sold.

It asked for everyday tests of fruits to be conducted at wholesale depots in the capital.

The HC also ordered the chairman of the National Board of Revenue to take immediate steps to stop the import of contaminated fruits and submit a progress report in this regard before the court within 15 days.

It directed the deputy inspector general of police in Rajshahi to deploy police forces in the commercial mango orchards in that area to stop the use of chemicals for ripening mangoes.

The HC asked the commerce, food and home secretaries to form a committee comprised of representatives of those ministries to make recommendations for the government to stop the use of chemicals in fruits and submit a report in this regard before the court within 15 days.

Furthermore, the HC directed the authorities concerned to file cases against people responsible for the use of chemicals in fruits under the Special Powers Act, 1974.

The HC bench of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and Justice Md Delwar Hossain gave the directives after hearing the public interest writ petition filed by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB).

The bench also issued a rule upon the government to explain within three weeks as to why it should not be directed to take effective measures to protect public health by stopping the use of chemicals in fruits and why their inaction in this regard should not be declared illegal.

Commerce, home and food secretaries, inspector general of police, managing director of BSTI and its director, director general of Rab, commissioner and deputy inspector general of police of Rajshahi and chairman of the NBR have been made respondents to the rule and the directives.

The HRPB petition stated that the respondents have failed to take necessary steps to stop the use of harmful chemicals for fruit ripening although they are legally and constitutionally bound to take steps.

Even though fruits such as apples, mangoes, grapes, bananas and papayas play an important role in maintaining good health of citizens, some corrupt traders are using chemicals like carbide to ripen them and formalin to elongate their shelf life, the petition stated.

It also cited some newspaper reports in this regard.

During the hearing yesterday, petitioner’s lawyer Manzill Murshid told the court that the mangoes, the most available fruit in this season, are being artificially ripened with chemicals and those mangoes are being stored and sold.

On June 1 last year, the HC in a verdict directed the government to set up a food court in every district and appoint sufficient food analysts and inspectors in all districts within one year to prevent food adulteration.

The court had also directed the government to inform the court by July 1, 2010, about its progress in complying with the directions.

The government has not implemented the HC verdict till date, Manzill told The Daily Star.

Source: The Daily Star – 11.05.2010

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