Gauhati High Court directs state govt to hold meet to prevent pesticide-laden vegetables from entering Guwahati

The Gauhati High Court has held that if an on-the-spot detection can be made on vegetables for which scientific means are available with the authorities, the next step that can be thought of would be to prevent them from entering the city of Guwahati.

The Division Bench of Justice Achintya Malla Bujor Barua and Justice Robin Phukan heard a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed against the widespread, excessive and uncontrolled use of pesticides for agricultural farming in Assam, more particularly in the tea plantation areas.

On February 23, experts from respective fields present before the Court were unanimous that consumption of vegetables containing offending chemicals would affect the health of the people consuming such vegetables. They are also unanimous that an effective on-the-spot test on incoming vegetables to Guwahati city can be made at the entry points to detect the presence of the offending chemicals, heavy metals etc. in vegetables.

The entry of vegetables can be regulated at various entry points to Guwahati where on-the-spot testing can be done on vehicles carrying the vegetables. The purpose is that if the vegetables tested are found to be containing more than the acceptable level of harmful chemicals, their entry itself can be prohibited at the entry points to the Guwahati city, the Court observed.

"To make it implementable and effective, we need a coordinated approach of the different Departments of the Government of Assam as well as under the Government of India. For the purpose, we require the Chief Secretary to the Government of Assam to convene a meeting of all the relevant Departments who may be involved in the aforesaid exercise including the Agriculture Department, the Health Department, the Finance Department, the Home Department as well as the appropriate Departments under the Government of India and also the Experts who are present before the Court today, including any further experts that the Chief Secretary in his discretion may deem appropriate to also remain present in such meeting."

The conjoint meeting to be convened to take place strictly on or before 01.03.2023, as per the convenience of the Chief Secretary and the participating officials and experts, directed the High Court.

Further the Court directed that the modus operandi to be adopted to give a practical shape to the aforesaid concept of preventing the entry in the city of the contaminated vegetables containing unacceptable level of chemicals, as may be decided in the conjoint meeting, be placed before the Court on the next returnable date so as to pass further orders to give effect to such proposed action that may be taken.

The Court clarified that the aforesaid proposition is the first step to make an effective attempt to control the entry of highly contaminated vegetables containing unacceptable chemicals being made available to markets in Guwahati and thereupon further deliberation would be made as to how to make it effective to prevent highly contaminated vegetables containing unacceptable chemicals from being available in the other parts of the State of Assam.

The matter has been listed on March 3, 2023 for further hearing.