The Madras High Court has warned the Managing Director of Sago Serve of contempt proceedings if the Designated Officer, District Food Safety Office, is denied access to godowns to verify the status of rejected sago products.
The first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice R Mahadevan, while hearing a PIL moved by Kallakurichi Vellalapatti Vivasayigal Munnetra Sangam against adding acid and other chemicals in sago, recorded the statement of the District Food Safety Officer on access denial and said: “We are not able to appreciate this obstructionism and thus must put the MD, Sago Serve, on notice that if any obstruction is pointed out to us in future, we will have no option but to initiate contempt proceedings.”
Earlier, when the case was taken up for hearing, Additional Advocate General P H Arvind Pandian, clarified that while Sago Serve continues to have nine tests, a central government notification had brought down the number of tests from three to two and hence the sago allowed for sale in Tamil Nadu remained free of chemicals and was pure.
However, the bench on observing that since the issue related to the purity of an edible product which was widely available and consumed, said: “It is necessary that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MH & FW) and the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSAI) bestow urgent consideration on the matter, taking into consideration the nine-test parameter, so that we have the benefit of a final view as to what should be the necessary test to be followed.”
The bench noted that the stand of the Central Government had not been placed before it and impleaded the MH & FW and FSAI as respondents and directed the Assistant Solicitor General to take notice. The bench also granted four weeks’ time to file their affidavits.
The farmers’ association in its PIL had alleged that the Tamil Nadu Tapioca Natural Sago Manufacturers Association of Salem, which supplies sago to many parts of the country, had started adding acid and other chemicals in order to make the sago look attractive “which is highly harmful to the public.”
Owing to this, consumption in states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, UP and Gujarat has dropped considerably adversely affecting tapioca farmers in the state, the petitioner said.