New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday banned the production, sale and use of controversial pesticide endosulfan in the country for the next eight weeks, holding that human life is more important than anything else.
"Keeping in mind various judgements of this court under Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution and particularly keeping in mind the precautionary principle we, hereby, direct and pass ad-interim order for immediate ban on production and use of endosulfan all over India," a bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia said.
The bench also directed the statutory authorities to freeze the production licences granted to the manufacturers of the controversial pesticide till its further order.
The bench also ordered two separate detailed studies on the adverse effects of Endosulfan on human life and environment by two committees, headed respectively by Indian Council Medical Research (ICMR) director general and the agricultural commissioner and sought their reports within eight weeks.
It said the report submitted to the court will be the amalgamation of the above two expert committees' reports.
The bench said the expert committee will submit its interim report on whether the pesticide should be banned or its existing stock should be eliminated in phases and if there is any alternative to the controversial pesticide.
During the hearing, the bench said that human life is more important than anything else.
The court passed its order on petition filed by CPIM's youth wing Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) seeking country-wide ban on sale and production of Endosulfan in its present form or any other derivatives in the market.
DYFI had contended in its petition that a large section of people was directly affected because of the use of Endosulfan, already banned in 81 countries.
The petitioner had said several studies had documented that the pesticide could also affect human development. It gave example of serious health hazards caused in Kerala's Kasaragod district.
According to the petitioner, researchers studying children from an isolated village in Kasaragod district have linked Endosulfan exposure to delays in sexual maturity among boys.
Endosulfan is an off-patent organochlorine insecticide and acaricide.
The petitioner had said that Endosulfan was the only pesticide applied to cashew plantations in Kasaragod for 20 years and contaminated the environment there.
Meanwhile, farmers and pesticide bodies said the Supreme Court order banning the production, sale and use of endosulfan ahead of the coming kharif season would harm the interests of growers, particularly those with small holdings, and hoped the ban does not continue for long.
Reacting to the apex court's order banning the controversial endosulfan pesticide for eight weeks, Pesticides Manufacturer and Formulators Association of India President Pradeep Dave said, "We respect the court's judgement, but the decision would harm interest of farmers and industries engaged in the manufacture and sale of cheap pesticide (endosulfan)."
He said the country annually produces around 12 million litres of endosulfan, of which 5-6 million litres is used during the kharif season. Kharif sowing starts from June and harvesting begins from October.
Federation of Farmers Association Chairman P Chengal Reddy said small farmers would be the main "sufferers" from the ban on cheap endosulfan pesticide.
"Already the crop loss annually due to pests and diseases is around Rs 30,000-40,000 crore and with the ban on Endosulfan, this loss could mount to Rs 1 lakh crore in a year," he added.
Reddy said endosulfan is used mainly in horticulture and a ban could have an adverse affect on food inflation too.
They hoped the ban does not continue for long.