The Madras High Court on Friday ordered that food safety officials should not take television crews along with them when they inspect the kitchens of restaurants and hotels and take samples to test the quality of food served there. The court made it clear that the officials could, however, engage the services of private camerapersons.
Justice R. Suresh Kumar also ordered that the footage shot by private camerapersons must be used only for successful prosecution of the case and that the officials should not give interviews to the media, without the leave of the court, damaging the reputation of the restaurateurs even before if it could be proved that there was any wrongdoing.
The interim orders were passed on a writ petition filed by the Chennai Hotels Association represented by Senior Counsel P.S. Raman who contended that a designated officer for Chennai city under the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) of 2006 was a ‘publicity freak’ who takes along with him a battery of television crew during every inspection.
Making it clear that the association members had no objection to any inspection carried out as per the provisions of the FSSA, the Senior Counsel said, the officers could not barge into the kitchens of various restaurants and hotels along with television cameras and start giving interviews right over there declaring the food items to be unhygienic and stale.
In an affidavit, filed through its counsel on record Vijayan Subramanian, the association secretary, R. Rajkumar, said, the hidden agenda of the designated officer for Chennai city was to tarnish the hard earned reputation and goodwill of the well-known hotel brands in the city even before the samples collected from them could be sent for laboratory tests.
The petitioner association contended that the FSSA does not permit the officials to take television crews along with them during a surprise inspection. After ordering notices to the designated officer as well as the State government to respond to the writ petition, the judge directed the Registry to list it again for hearing on October 17.