The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the highest regulatory body in the country, said no person should manufacture or sell ‘packaged drinking water’ without the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) certification mark.
FSSAI made this assertion in the form of a counter affidavit filed before the National Green Tribunal, Southern Bench, which was hearing a suo motu matter related to the quality of water supplied by local bodies such as Chennai Metrowater.
Taking suo motu notice of a letter sent by a public-spirited person, the Tribunal, in August 2013, had issued notices to the State agencies and FSSAI. The Tribunal was conducting a hearing on another suo motu matter related to illegal packaged drinking water units based on a report published in The Hindu.
When the matter came up for hearing before the Bench comprising Justice M. Chockalingam and Prof. R. Nagendran, the counter affidavit was filed by a counsel for FSSAI.
The counter said after the enactment of the Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act, 2006, the FSSAI was the competent authority to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.
The FSSAI also said the question raised by the complainant would not fall within the ambit of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.
“Mere supply of drinking water by the State machinery/instrumentality to its people, in view of its constitutional duty, will not per se attract the provisions of the FSS Act and the National Green Tribunal Act, and as such, the contention of the complainant is misplaced and misconceived,” said FSSAI.
However, FSSAI said the specifications of packaged drinking water had already been prescribed.
“As per Food Safety and Standards Regulations 2011, no person shall manufacture, sell or exhibit for sale packaged drinking water under the BIS certification mark,” it said.