The Supreme Court on Friday directed the central government to consider to suitably amending the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and the Indian Penal Code to incorporate penal provisions making adulteration of milk with chemicals - adversely affecting the health of the people - punishable with life imprisonment.
"It is also desirable that Union of India revisits the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 to revise the punishment for adulteration making it more deterrent in cases where the adulterant can have an adverse impact on health," said the bench of Chief Justice T.S.Thakur, Justice R.Banumathi and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit in their judgment.
Referring to its orders of December 5, 2013 and that of December 10, 2014, the top court said: "It will be in order, if the Union of India considers making suitable amendments in the penal provisions at par with the provisions contained in the State amendments to the Indian Penal Code" by Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha governments, which have enhanced the punishment for adulteration of food and products to life imprisonment.
The court had by its December 5, 2013 order had said that "similar amendments are to be made in other states as well".
The December 5, 2013, order was reiterated by the top court when it had on January 30, 2014, directed the central government to consider bringing in suitable amendment in FSS Act, 2006.
Again on December 10, 2014, the top court had said: "We reiterate that the respondent - Union of India shall take up the matter seriously and come up with all possible amendments in the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
"It goes without saying that while making necessary amendments in the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, the respondent - Union of India - shall also make penal provisions at par with the provisions contained in the Indian Penal Code and the States Amendments made therein."
On Friday, Justice Banumathi, speaking for the bench, said: "Since in India traditionally infants/children are fed milk, adulteration of milk and its products is a concern and stringent measures need to be taken to combat it. The consumption of adulterated milk and adulterated milk products is hazardous to human health."
The judgment referred to the "Executive Summary on National Survey on Milk Adulteration, 2011" released by Foods Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) which said that at the national level, 68.4 per cent of milk being sold is adulterated and alleging that the worst performers were Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Mizoram, Jharkhand and Daman and Diu, where adulteration in milk was found up to 100 per cent.
In Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, 88 percent of milk samples were found adulterated.
The top court direction to make milk adulteration, adversely impacting the health of the people, punishable with life imprisonment came on a PIL by a Uttarakhand-based religious seer Swami Achyutanand Tirth who had highlighted the menace of growing sales of adulterated and synthetic milk in different parts of the country.
The Swami had sought direction to the central and the concerned state governments to take immediate effective and serious steps to rule out the sale and circulation of synthetic/adulterated milk and milk products like ghee, mawa, cheese, etc.
Besides directing amending the FSS Act and IPC to provide for stringent and deterrent punishment, the court issued 10 directions addressing different aspect of dealing with the problem and curbing the menace of food adulteration.
This includes putting in place a complaint mechanism to deal with corruption, creating awareness about the nature of risk public is exposed to due to milk and other adulterations and the pro-active role of FSS authorities in high risk areas where there are petty milk producers and the sale of sweets at the time of the festivals.