Delhi HC seeks Centre's stand on plea to label all products as vegetarian or non-vegetarian

A view of Delhi High Court in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

The Delhi High Court on Thursday sought the Centre's stand on a plea for labelling “all items” used by the public, including home appliances and apparel, as “vegetarian” or “non-vegetarian” on the basis of their ingredients and “items used in manufacturing process”.

Also read: Experts call for nutritional labelling regulations

A bench headed by Justice Vipin Sanghi observed that everyone has the right to know and follow their belief and asked the Central Government to “seriously examine” the plea by Ram Gaua Raksha Dal — a trust working towards the welfare of cows — which claims that there are certain “non-vegetarian” products that are unknowingly used or consumed by those professing vegetarianism due to absence of proper disclosures.

“There can't be no denying the fact that every person has the right to know which springs from right to free speech. The issue raised by the petitioner has a bearing on a person's right to life in as much as the person is entitled to profess and follow his beliefs,” said the bench, also comprising Justice Jasmeet Singh.

It said a copy of the order be given to the concerned secretaries of Ministries of Health and Consumer Affairs for their consideration and directed that a response be filed in three weeks.

The petitioner, represented by lawyer Rajat Aneja, has highlighted in the petition that there are several items and commodities which are used in “everyday lives” without those professing vegetarianism realising that they are either derived from animals or processed using animal-based products.

Mr. Aneja told the court that bone char or natural carbon is used for polishing or refining white sugar, which is not fit for the consumption of people professing vegetarianism.

Bone china products and even crayons have ingredients of “animal origin”, he added.

The petition has asserted that the information regarding the usage of any “non-vegetarian component” ought to be disclosed and be considered as a factor to declare that product as “non-vegetarian”.

It said: “Along with various edibles and cosmetics that clearly include animal-derived products as their active ingredients, there also exist various cosmetics as well as food items, which though, do not contain any animal-based product in the list of their ingredients, and are therefore, marked as vegetarian, however, are manufactured by using animal-derived products.” The petitioner clarified that it does not seek to ban any product but “only seeks to know the truth”.

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, appearing for the Centre, said the petition was for a “genuine cause”.

“We will look into it, but if it can come by way of a direction. The expanse is so much. (There is) bone china, sabudana, sugar,” he stated.

Central government counsel Ajay Digpaul added that standards of packaging are governed by the Legal Metrology Act which provides for imposition of a penalty in case of violation.

In the petition, the petitioner has submitted that in a country where “a majority of religious population is under a religious obligation not to use certain animal products”, it is the “primary responsibility” of the manufacturers to disclose information pertaining to the ingredients of any product.

“The primary endeavour of the petitioner is...not only (for) strict enforcement of the existing Rules and Policies of labelling products as Green, Red and Brown, based on the nature of ingredients of a particular product, but also for directing the concerned authorities to make it mandatory for the manufacturers of food products, cosmetics, perfumes; home appliances like crockery, wearable items (apparel, belts, shoes etc.); accessories (necklaces, wallets etc.), and tolabelall such products similarly,” the petition reads.

The matter would be heard next on December 9.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 5:06:22 PM |

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