Calcutta High Court suggests creating database by the Health Department of West Bengal


The Calcutta High Court suggested that a database be created by the Health Department of the State of West Bengal where all the registered manufacturers can be enlisted and a caution notice can be issued stating that without obtaining the requisite licences no unit can produce packaged drinking water.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice T. S. Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL)  highlighted a very important issue with regard to the safety of the packaged drinking water.

The petitioner seeks for issuance of a direction upon the respondents to create a Task Force which shall coordinate amongst the various departments and constitute special crack units which will undertake surprise checks at various locations of manufactures of packaged drinking water and initiate strict action in terms of the provisions contained under the BIS Act, FSSA, IPC and other statute.

Pursuant to the directions issued by the court earlier, the Special Secretary of the Department of Health & Family Welfare, Government of West Bengal (3rd respondent) has filed a report in the form of an affidavit.  

On perusal of the said report, the Court found that a Special Task Force has been constituted under the Department of Consumer Affairs to monitor the activity of various illegal trade practices including that of illegal packaged drinking water.

The steps taken by the State Level Advisory Committee headed by the Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal have also been mentioned in the report.

It is stated that from 2019 till 31.12.2021 totally 340 samples were submitted to the State Laboratories and 280 samples have been tested. That apart, a large number of awareness camps have been organized by the Food Safety Officers for licensing and/or registration of Food Business Operators so that those willing to carry on the business of packaged drinking water may do so in a proper manner.  

With regard to the criminal prosecution to be initiated against the violators, it is stated that the same will be filed within the jurisdiction of the Police Department and during joint raids against the food business operators of packaged drinking water, the Food Safety Officers are present as a member of the joint raid team requisitioned by the District Enforcement Branch (DEB) and seizure has been effected and cases have been registered under the relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code by the DEB.

Further, it is stated that the Food Safety Officers and District Food Safety Officers conduct  raids/inspections along with the Enforcement Department and approximately 413 inspections have been conducted by the officers from 2012 till the date of filing of the report and 85 plants were closed. 

From the report submitted by respondent no.3 , the Court noted  that there is a monitoring mechanism to ensure that nobody manufactures packaged drinking water without the requisite licences.

However, the problem is not a one-day affair. It requires continues and vigilant monitoring of all the packaged drinking water manufacturers.

"The court would suggest that a data base be created by the Health Department of the State of West Bengal where all the registered manufacturers can be enlisted and a caution notice can be issued stating that without obtaining the requisite licences no unit can produce packaged drinking water. Apart from continuous monitoring, the public may also be sensitized by the Health Department by handing over leaflets and erecting boards during festival warning of the general public not to drink water which are packaged which do not display the requisite approvals and permissions which are mandatory in character. This court trust that the monitoring mechanism shall be strengthened and continuous monitoring be done so that the safety and the health of the general public are protected", the order reads.