Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court chided the state for its non-seriousness in implementation of food safety provisions even as it observed that pure food was fundamental right to all citizens.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey also directed the government to provide all facilities to food safety appellate tribunals, both at Jammu and Srinagar.
The direction by the court followed perusal of a letter by the Presiding Officers of FSAT, Ashok Kumar Koul (Jammu) and Mohammad Yousuf Akhoon (Srinagar), that the tribunals were virtually non-functional.
“Notwithstanding multiple directions of the court, a lot is required to be done by the concerned department to make the Tribunals functional,” the presiding officers said.
Though computers and a photocopier have been installed in the Tribunals but there is no one to use the Hardware, they said.
“An orderly and a senior assistant have been deputed to the tribunal at Jammu as an interim arrangement but it is not known as to why the sanctioned posts have not been filled so far.”
They said the government deputed senior Assistant but is not in a position to take dictation nor does he have the knowhow of typing or any administrative skill. “Almost same is the position at Srinagar also. Health and Medical Education department may be content with what they have done so far in compliance of the directions of court but the fact is that (it) has to do much more to ensure that the working of the Tribunals is smooth and hassle free,” they said.
The Registrar(s) of the Tribunal is an officer who has very important functions to discharge and his duties and powers have been defined in Rule3.3.3 of Food Safety and Standards Rules 2011 but the post (s) is/are yet to be filled. They said that their belief, the post (s) was even yet to be sanctioned.
“The process of recruitment of staff of the Tribunals, which is yet to start, may take months together and till then some alternate arrangement is required to be made.”
The Presiding Officer of the tribunal at Srinagar assumed the charge more than six months before but the Tribunal is virtually nonfunctional due to deficiency of staff and infrastructure. “So the ground situation in both the Tribunals is almost identical so far as basic requirements are concerned.”
Health and Medical Education department, they said, appears to be moving at a slow pace to fulfil its statutory obligations in making the tribunals functional. “Though the department is eager to do the needful, the action is yet to be translated into a reality,” they said.
They said that while rules in unambiguously provides that the Presiding Officers of the Tribunal shall be entitled to Staff cars but same have not been provided so far, they said.
“Besides, there are so many issues which the department needs to look in to qua the functioning of the Tribunals at Jammu and Srinagar. A committed introspection is required on the part of the Officers at the helm of affairs so that corrections, where ever needed are made at the earliest in tune with the directions given by Court from time to time,” they said and underlined need for appointing a nodal officer to be nominated by the department for some time to be fastened with the responsibility of looking in to the deficiencies in the infrastructure etc of the tribunals.
“No serious step has been taken by the department so far to seek the transfer of the cases from where ever same are pending to the Appellate Tribunals at Jammu and Srinagar,” they added.
After perusal of the application, the division bench of the court took serious note of “casual approach” of government and directed it to inform as to what steps have been taken for providing all facilities to presiding officer by next date of hearing in the public interest litigation.
Else, the court directed that commissioner health & medical education department shall remain present on next date of hearing on December 14.
The court also observed that pure food was basic fundamental right to everyone and “the government is making mockery of all this.”