SC agrees to hear plea to ban 85 hazardous pesticides in India [Read Application]

SC agrees to hear plea to ban 85 hazardous pesticides in India [Read Application]

Meera Emmanuel

The Supreme Court has been approached for a ban on 85 more dangerous pesticides in India.  The Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran issued notice yesterday in an application filed through Advocate Prashant Bhushan, assisted by Advocate Omanakuttan.  A writ petition calling for the Court’s intervention to ban dangerous pesticides in India is already pending before the Court.

The petitioner had initially approached the Court contending that at least 99 pesticides fall under the bannable category. However, last week, the instant application was filed seeking to extend the scope of the case to 103 pesticides used in India, which research showed were hazardous enough to attract a ban.

Out of these, a Government Order passed in 2018 i.e. the Pesticides (Prohibition) Order 2018 only deals with 18 pesticides.  The order was passed pursuant to recommendations made in 2015 by the Anupam Verma Committee. Of the 18  banned, 6 would only be phased out by the year 2020.

To buttress their case for banning the remaining 85 pesticides, the petitioner has referred to their prohibition in foreign jurisdictions owing to their ill effects, as well as studies pointing to such effects.

Further, reference is also made to media reports and fact-finding visits undertaken by the petitioner to Vidarbha, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu where pesticides such as Acephate, Monocrotophos, Diafenthurion, Profenophos, Carbendazim, Mancozeb, Cypermethrin, Fipronil, Imidacloprid etc. were found to have been involved in a number of deaths.

The failure to act against the use of Glyphosate, a weed-killer has been particularly highlighted. The application contends that there is significant evidence to prove that Glyphosate has numerous adverse health and environmental impacts. The World Health Organisation has also classified the Glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. Despite this, it is the largest imported pesticide in India, in addition to having a large indigenous manufacturing base.

In fact, as pointed out in the application, Glyphosate was not even reviewed by the Anupam Verma Expert Committee. Of the 103 pesticides argued to be hazardous, the Anupam Verma Committee only examined 66 pesticides. Of this, 27 were recommended to be reviewed again in 2018 after the completion of recommended studies.

The application goes on to highlight certain defects in the constitution of such expert committees as well. After the Anupam Verma Committee, two more review committees, i.e. the Dr JS Sandhu Committee and the Dr SK Malhotra Committee were constituted to aid the government in formulating their pesticide policies.

However, all three review committees lacked the participation of vital persons such as health experts and public-spirited civil society experts with experience in alternatives to toxic chemicals. On the other hand,

… these Committees have been heavily influenced by pesticides industry’s participation as well as agriculture scientists whose expertise has been in synthetic pesticides based plant protection… this is a serious lacuna that has affected decision-making and concrete action with regard to deadly pesticides that are affecting the very right to life of farmers and farm workers.

Another issue raised by the petitioner is the centralisation of powers with it comes to framing pesticide policies. Even though agriculture and plant protection are subjects falling in the state list, the Central government retains dominance when it comes to framing pesticide laws through the Insecticides Act 1968. The application argues against such centralisation of power as follows,

“…this lack of authority with state governments is against the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, wherein Item 14 under List II makes agriculture and plant protection, the subject of state governments.

Given these contentions, the prayer made by the petitioner is two-fold:

– Direct the Central Government to review the remaining 85 bannable pesticides. The review committee given this task should comprise of appropriate health and ecological experts. Further, the recommendations made by the review committee should be executed within 6 months.

– Grant more autonomy to states in making decisions in these matters. To this end, the petition prays for the Court to pass orders to empower State governments to take State-level prohibition and restriction decisions related to pesticides.

Read the Application:

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news