HC’s jolt to insecticide manufacturers

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 30 Jun 2018 11:17:17


Staff Reporter,

In a major jolt to insecticide manufacturing companies who were seeking a minor modification in the order of High Court dated February 22 seeking deletion of “deaths due to spraying of insecticides are not in dispute” remark, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Friday refused to delete or modify the said remark.

Crop Care Federation of India, an association representing the insecticide manufacturers, moved a civil application before the High Court seeking deletion of this particular remark holding that deaths due to spraying of insecticides were not in dispute suggesting modification that deaths were due to insecticide while indirectly trying to question the conclusion about cause of deaths indicting the manufacturers and machinery for violation of statutory norms. Crop Care Foundation of India had repeatedly claimed that toxic insecticides were not responsible for the deaths. However, a division bench consisting of Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice Swapna Joshi refused to modify February 22 order and reiterated that these unfortunate deaths, mostly in Yavatmal districts were due to spray of insecticides.

It may be recalled that High Court, while allowing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by an activist Jammu Anand had slammed the Agriculture department officers in containing deaths due to insecticide spraying while ordering compensation of Rs 4 lakh each to family members of each deceased. The High Court had also directed the State Government to conduct departmental inquiry against responsible agriculture officers and complete it within three months. Those found guilty of dereliction of duty should also be criminally prosecuted, the High Court had directed.

Practically brushing aside the report of Special Investigation Team (SIT) which absolved all officials of any responsibility in these tragic deaths, the High Court after perusing the SIT report and supporting documents after which the SIT came to such a conclusion blaming farmers and absolving insecticide companies and officials, the High Court had cracked its whip against companies and officials while enhancing compensation as well. Going a step further, the High Court had asked the State to provide compensation to every deceased in other districts as well who succumbed due to inhalation of fumes emanating from toxic pesticides. If any aggrieved family feels that compensation is inadequate, then they may pursue the matter with state and responsible pesticide company, the order stated.

Acknowledging that there is no declared policy to compensate loss due to pesticide spray or inhalation, the High Court also asked the State to frame a proper policy to deal with such an eventuality in future. The High Court has permitted the State Government to recover the amount from the manufacturers of such toxic insecticides and if necessary pursue proposal with centre to impose ban on them.

SIT had blamed systemic failure for these tragic deaths and claimed that they were avoidable while noting that even in 2016-17 in Yavatmal district alone 434 farmers were hospitalised for inhaling toxic pesticides and such a report by Agriculture Officer could have prevented future deaths. However, the SIT had not recommended any action against any particular agency or officer while blaming failure of entire system for this tragic incident.

According to petitioner, Yavatmal district witnessed wide spread deaths due to inhaling toxic insecticide fumes sprayed mostly in cotton and soya fields. The petitioner, while charging the administration with lax enforcement of insecticide act and regulations claimed that due to their apathy the deaths had occurred in Yavatmal district and demanded stern penal action including registration of culpable homicide offence against the officers, directors of insecticide manufacturing company, dealers and retailers and compensation of Rs 20 lakh to family members of deceased persons and Rs 10 lakh each to families of those hospitalised.

Adv Arvind Waghmare (Petitioner), Senior Advocate Subodh Dharmadhikari (Crop Care), Government Pleader Sumant Deopujari (State) appeared in the matter.