The Supreme Court on Friday took a serious note of government’s failure to meet the two-month deadline on submitting its interim report on the possibility of either imposing a complete ban on pesticide endosulfan or eliminating the existing stock in phases.
The Supreme Court, which on May 13 had imposed a complete ban on production, sale and use of endosulfan for eight weeks, granted another three weeks to the Centre to come out with the report while refusing its plea for a six-week time.
“The Additional Solicitor-General seeks six weeks’ time to file the interim report. We are not inclined to give six weeks and the preliminary report based on the study by an expert committee has to be filed within three weeks,” a bench comprising Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar said.
The bench reminded Additional Solicitor-General Mohan Parasaran that already two months had passed since it gave an interim order on May 13 asking for preliminary report based on a detailed study from all aspects by an expert committee.
Much depends on the preliminary report as the court in its earlier order had said that “if the expert committee on detail study comes to the conclusion that there is no harmful affect of the endosulfan, the preliminary report will be considered for vacating the interim stay”.
It had asked the committee to give its preliminary report within eight weeks on whether the pesticide should be banned or its existing stock should be eliminated in phases and if there is any alternative to the controversial pesticide.
The court was hearing a petition seeking a ban on endolsulfan on the ground that it was causing health hazards including genetic disorders in Kerala where it is widely used.
During the brief hearing, the bench said there was also a need to understand the practice of international standards on the issue of endosulfan.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the manufacturers of endosulfan, expressed concern on delay in the preparation of the report saying that the production of the pesticide has come to a halt since the last two months which was affecting international commitments.
“We make the product for other countries. Why to stop the export?” he argued.
Senior advocate Krishna Venugopal, appearing for the anti-endosulfan campaigner, submitted that he would place all documents to assist the court.
However, the bench said, “Our May 13 order is only for interim report”.
Taking note of the plea to allow export of the existing stock, the CJI said, “I want to be sure that if we allow the export it should not come back to India”.
The bench said the Centre must keep in mind various aspects connected with endosulfan including the stockpile and how it would be going to destroyed.
“You have to keep all these things in mind,” the bench said.
A complete ban on production, sale and use of pesticide endosulfan for eight weeks was ordered by the Supreme Court which had held that human life is more important than anything else. “We don’t want a single child to suffer,” it had said.
The bench had said it was concerned about right to life of the citizen guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution and even the companies involved in the manufacturing of the controversial pesticide cannot ignore corporate and social responsibility by ignoring the alleged hazards posed to human lives.
The bench had also directed the statutory authorities to freeze the production licences granted to the manufacturers of the pesticide till further orders.
The bench has said a detailed study from all aspect needs to be done by an expert committee and directed the government to form it by amalgamating the two committees — one headed by the Director General of Indian Counsel for Medical Research and another by Agricultural Commissioner of the Ministry of Agriculture.
The bench had said it would not restrict itself to the issue of endosulfan to Kerala, which has bore the maximum brunt of the pesticide, and considered it on the national prospective.
Democratic Youth Federation of India has sought a country-wide ban on sale and production of endosulfan in its present form or any other derivatives, contending that a large section of people was directly affected because of its use. It also noted that endosulfan has been already banned in 81 countries.
The petitioner said several studies had documented that the pesticide could affect human development. It gave example of serious health hazards caused in Kerala’s Kasaragod district.
According to the petitioner, researchers studying children from an isolated village in Kasaragod district have linked endosulfan exposure to delays in sexual maturity among boys.
Endosulfan is an off-patent organochlorine insecticide and acaricide.
The petitioner had said that endosulfan was the only pesticide applied to cashew plantations in Kasaragod for 20 years and contaminated the environment there.
The pesticide manufacturers had alleged that the plea of Communist Party of India (Marxist) activists for a ban on endosulfan was politically motivated and sought dismissal of the petition.