Interim Report Deadline Extended

The Supreme Court appointed joint committee was unable to submit its interim report on endosulfan on July 15 and asked for another eight weeks to prepare the report. On the other hand, the pesticide manufacturers and formulators association of India, one of the respondents in the case, pleaded with the court to give an immediate relief to them to allow exporting the pesticides, the stocks for which were already present with the manufacturers.

This request was denied and the three judge bench, comprising chief justice SH Kapadia, justice Swatantar Kumar and justice KSP Radhakrishnan, said that any decision on the exports would be taken after the interim report was submitted. The union government has now been given another three week period to revert to the court with the interim report. Chief Justice SH Kapadia, told the Union of India, represented by the  that the interim report should analyse the options of both exporting and disposing off 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 would cause 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, stated in the court that they were against the idea of export of endosulfan unless it was to developed countries with a 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.    

Courtroom drama
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 that there were independent scientific literature to prove that endosulfan was a serious health concern.

They was however cut short by the Chief Justice who said that they hadn't received the interim report and that they would not take any further decision until the report was presented to them. Union of India pleaded for some more time. They began with an eight week extension which was brought to six week.

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 instead. The Supreme Court denied this plea.  Chief Justice Kapadia was also keen to know that if exports were allowed, then was there a chance that the pesticide would find its way back into the country.  The bench has thus asked the joint committee to come back after 3 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.