New Delhi: The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government has told the Delhi High Court that under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), food adulteration is a cognisable offence against which police can take action, including registration of FIRs.
The submission was made before a bench of Justices G S Sistani and A J Bhambhani which on an earlier date had said that the use of pesticides and chemicals to ripen fruits amount to poisoning and the culprits should be sent to jail.
The Delhi government also told the court that out of the 86 fruit and vegetable samples it had collected from various markets in the national capital, 15 were found to be "highly unsafe" due to "excess lead content".
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) told the bench that it has developed a framework for 'clean and fresh fruit and vegetable market' to address safety and hygiene concerns in the unorganised fresh fruit and vegetable sector.
It also said that it has identified five markets at INA, Kotla, Janakpuri, Ranibagh and Ghanta Ghar for pilot projects on food safety.
Thereafter, it will be replicated in the markets of Azadpur, Daryaganj, Ghazipur and Okhla, the FSSAI said.
The bench directed the FSSAI to consider publicising its new scheme or framework in four local languages to educate all stakeholders.
"In addition, the FSSAI may also consider carrying advertisements on websites, posters, hoardings, social media, cinema halls, metro stations and bus stops, it said.
The court said, "a comparative chart should also be prepared on the roles and responsibilities of the FSSAI and the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) along with the accountability and responsibility of state governments and the interplay of these organisations."
"It will enable the court to have a clearer picture of the entities involved in the matter of food safety and their respective roles," the court added.
The order came on a public interest litigation (PIL) initiated by the court to monitor the use of pesticides on fruits and vegetables.
Apart from the PIL initiated by the court on its own, it is also hearing a plea by an individual seeking directions to authorities to curb the use of pesticides and other chemicals on food products, especially agricultural produce, coming into the national capital.
According to a report filed by amicus curiae Rajul Jain earlier, due to excessive use of pesticides in fruits and vegetables, "various countries have banned the import of Indian vegetables and fruits and many more were under scrutiny".
The high court had initiated the issue on its own after a NGO had found that vegetables and fruits sold in the Delhi markets contained poisons capable of causing cancer and harming the nervous system and liver.
The court has in the past suggested several measures to curb adulteration of eatables, especially fruits and vegetables, like large-scale testing and sending back contaminated food products to manufacturers or farmers.