Endosulfan ban to continue

Supreme Court appointed committee fails to submit interim report    

By Savvy Soumya Misra
Published: Friday 15 July 2011

The Supreme Court appointed joint committee failed to submit its interim report on endosulfan on July 15 and asked for eight-week extension. On the other hand, the Pesticide Manufacturers and Formulators Association of India (PMFAI), one of the respondents in the case, pleaded with the court to give immediate relief to them and allow export of pesticides, the stocks for which are already lying with the manufacturers. 

This request was denied and the three judge bench, comprising chief justice S H Kapadia, Swatantar Kumar and K S P Radhakrishnan, said that any decision on the exports would be taken after the interim report is submitted. The Union government has been given another three-week period to revert to the court with the interim report. Chief justice Kapadia, told the Union of India, represented by additional solicitor general Mohan Parasaran, that the interim report should analyse the options of both exporting and disposing the available stock present with the manufacturers.                                                                                

The Supreme Court on May 13 had ordered an interim ban on the organochlorine pesticide, endosulfan, and appointed a joint committee headed by the Director General Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Agriculture Commissioner, to “conduct a scientific study on the question whether the use of endosulfan would cause any serious health hazard to human beings and environmental pollution”. The joint committee was given a deadline of eight weeks which ended on July 15. The order was issued on a petition filed by the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), the youth wing of CPI(M), Kerala. The petitioners, represented by senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal, told the court that they were against export ofendosulfan unless it was to developed countries that follow strong precautionary principle. "If exports are allowed, the manufacturers will begin dumping endosulfan in under-developed African countries or the Asian countries, which have weak regulations for controlling pesticide use," said Deepak Prakash, advocate, DYFI.    

What endosulfan manufactures wanted

Harish Salve, the counsel for the PMFAI, wanted to divert the proceedings of the case by pointing out that the health problems in Kerala were more due to aerial spray of the pesticide rather than the pesticide itself. Venugopal intervened and said there independent scientific literature proved that endosulfan was a serious health concern. They were, however, cut short by the chief justice who said that the court had not received the interim report and that they would not take any decision until the report was presented to them. Union of India pleaded for some more time. 

Salve argued that till such time that the interim report was being prepared, the manufacturers, who have stopped the manufacture and sale of the pesticide in the country should be allowed to export. The Supreme Court rejected this plea. Kapadia was also keen to know if exports were allowed, then if there is a chance that the pesticide finds its way back into the country. The bench has thus asked the joint committee to revert after three weeks, with a feasible option of either exports or disposal of the stocks available in the country. The bench also added that till such time a decision is taken, based on the interim report, the ban on the manufacture, sale, use and exports of the pesticide will continue. 

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