Says apex food regulator cannot issue emergency ban order on products under the law; argument to continue today
The jurisdiction of the country's apex food regulator, Food Safety & Standards Authority of India, was questioned at the high court here on Monday, in the petition from Nestle India on the Maggi noodles' ban.
Whether the regulator could issue an emergency ban order was among the arguments raised by the company's counsel, Iqbal Chagla.
He contended Section 34 of the Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006, prevented FSSAI from issuing such an order.
“Section 34 specifies that emergency prohibition notices or orders can be issued by the designated officer or the commissioner of food safety (of a state), if they are satisfied that a health risk condition exists with respect to a food business," Chagla told a bench of judges V M Kanade and B P Colabawalla.
"Morever, the designated officer shall not apply the emergency prohibition order at least one day before the the date of application, till he has served a notice on the food business operator of his intention to do so.
"And, the prohibition order will cease to have effect once he is satisfied with the measures taken by the food business operator for lifting of such an order."
Nestle India has been arguing in court that the recall and ban order on Maggi, issued on June 5, was arbitrary and against the principles of natural justice. Monday's hearing was a continuation of final arguments that commenced on July 17.
On Friday, Chagla had argued on how the tests conducted by state laboratories to determine the level of contamination in Maggi could not be relied upon. He had highlighted how the tests were conducted by laboratories that were not accredited or notified under Section 43 of the 2006 law.
On Monday, he repeatedly drove home the point of arbitrariness, saying FSSAI had not adhered to sections 16 and 30 of the Act.
Section 16 indicates the duties and functions of the Authority, which does not include banning of products. Section 30 says it is the state government that will appoint the commissioner of food safety for efficient implementation of safety and standards.
It is the commissioner that will prohibit the distribution or sale of a product in a state, carry out surveys of industrial units engaged in the manufacture or processing of food in a state, and ensure they comply with standards notified by the Authority.
The latter has no power to discharge the above duties, as specified in the Act,” Chagla said.
Nestle will continue arguing the matter on Tuesday, after which the counsels for the Maharashtra Food & Drug Administration and FSSAI will present their defence.
A judgement will be given after completion of all arguments, on a separate day.