Observing that Right to life is a paramount consideration, the Supreme Court on Friday banned the manufacture, sale and use of pesticide endosulfan in the country for eight weeks.
A three-Judge Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI)S.H. Kapadia and Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar, in a brief order, said: “Keeping in mind various judgments of this court under Article 21 [right to life and liberty] of the Constitution and particularly keeping in mind the precautionary principle, we, hereby, direct and pass an ad interim order for immediate ban on production and use of endosulfan all over India.”
The Bench directed the statutory authorities to freeze the production licences granted to the manufacturers of endosulfan till further order.
It took note of the submissions of Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, (who also assisted the court as amicus curiae) that two committees were set up — one headed by the Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research and another by Agricultural Commissioner — to study the harmful effects of endosulfan on human life and environment, and said these two committees should be amalgamated into one.
The Bench said the expert committee would submit its interim report on whether the pesticide should be banned or its existing stock should be eliminated in phases and if there was any alternative to the controversial pesticide.
The Bench passed this order on a petition filed by the Democratic Youth Federation of India, after its senior counsel Krishnan Venugopal and Deepak Prakash urging the court to impose a ban on production and sale of endosulfan in its present form or any other derivatives in the market.
Appearing for the private manufacturers, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi said that endosulfan was cost effective and no alternative pesticide was found out so far. He opposed a ban at this stage, saying the court could wait till the report was submitted by the expert committee.
However, the CJI told counsel, “we don't want even one child to suffer either for six or seven weeks as human life was the paramount consideration. We go by Article 21 and polluter pay principle laid down by this court. Whether there is valid licence or not Article 21 is higher than the statute. Don't go by money alone. You have corporate social responsibility also.”
The petitioner said, “considering the harmful side effects on the people, the State of Kerala had imposed a ban on endosulfan. The excessive use of chemicals and pesticides for optimising agricultural production created alarming danger to health and safety of living beings in general and agricultural workers in particular” It sought an all India ban.