|AIR 2016 SC 3626
|DATE OF JUDGEMENT
|Swami Achyutanand Tirth
|Union of India
|T.S. Thakur, R. Banumathi, Uday Umesh Lalit
This landmark case, decided by the Supreme Court of India in 2016, addressed the crucial issue of food safety and the use of additives and artificial flavors in food products. The petitioners, led by Swami Achyutanand, challenged the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Rules, 2011, specifically questioning the permissibility of certain additives and flavors deemed detrimental to health. They argued that these substances violated their fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
FACTS OF THE CASE-
- In the 2016 case of Swami Achyutanand & Ors. v. Union of India, the petitioners challenged the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Rules, 2011, claiming that the permitted use of certain additives and artificial flavors violated their right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- They argued that these substances were harmful to health and lacked sufficient scientific evidence to support their safety.
- The government defended the PFA Rules, highlighting their reliance on scientific evidence and international standards. They also emphasized the economic benefits of these additives and the potential adverse impact on the food industry from stricter regulations.
- While upholding the overall framework of the PFA Rules, the Supreme Court imposed restrictions on certain additives and flavors, particularly those with insufficient scientific backing or potential health risks.
The two main issues raised in the case of Swami Achyutanand & Ors. v. Union of India (2016) were:
1. Harmfulness of certain additives and artificial flavors: This challenged the safety of specific ingredients allowed under the PFA Rules, questioning their potential health risks and lack of sufficient scientific evidence to support their usage.
2. Violation of the right to life: This argued that the government’s approval of potentially harmful substances violated the citizens’ fundamental right to safe and healthy food, a crucial aspect of Article 21 of the Constitution.
CONTENTIONS OF APPELLANT-
1. Use of Harmful Additives and Flavors: The appellants argued that the PFA Rules allowed the use of harmful additives and artificial flavors, specifically mentioning examples like artificial sweeteners, preservatives, coloring agents, and flavoring agents. They claimed that these substances lacked sufficient scientific evidence to support their long-term safety and posed potential health risks to consumers.
2. Violation of Right to Life: The appellants asserted that the government, by permitting the use of potentially harmful substances in food, violated their fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution. They argued that the right to life encompasses the right to safe and healthy food, a crucial aspect of human well-being.
3. Lack of Transparency and Disclosure: The appellants criticized the lack of transparency and disclosure in the use of additives and flavors in food products. They argued that consumers were unaware of what they were consuming and lacked the necessary information to make informed choices.
4. Inadequate Scientific Evaluation: The appellants questioned the adequacy of the scientific evaluation conducted before permitting the use of additives and flavors. They demanded rigorous and independent scientific testing to ensure the safety of such substances before their inclusion in food products.
5. Need for Stricter Regulations: The appellants urged the government to implement stricter regulations and enforcement mechanisms to prevent the use of harmful additives and flavors in food. They argued for stricter penalties for offenders and increased vigilance from the government to guarantee food safety.
CONTENTIONS OF RESPONDENT-
1. Validity of PFA Rules: The government defended the validity of the PFA Rules, 2011, arguing that they were based on scientific evidence and established international standards. They highlighted the rigorous scientific evaluation process involved in determining the safety of additives and flavors before their approval.
2. Economic Considerations: The government acknowledged the importance of food safety but also emphasized the need to balance it with economic considerations. They argued that stricter regulations could negatively impact food production, industry profitability, and potentially lead to increased food prices
3. Benefits of Additives and Flavors: The government highlighted the benefits of using additives and flavors in food products, including increased shelf life, improved taste, and affordability. They argued that these substances play a crucial role in providing safe and accessible food to a large population.
4. Existing Regulations and Enforcement: The government defended the existing regulations and enforcement mechanisms in place to prevent food adulteration. They emphasized their ongoing efforts to improve the enforcement system and increase vigilance against food safety violations.
In the case of Swami Achyutanand & Ors. v. Union of India (2016), the Supreme Court of India delivered a nuanced judgment balancing food safety concerns with economic realities. While upholding the overall framework of the PFA Rules, 2011, the Court imposed specific restrictions on certain additives and flavors lacking sufficient scientific backing or posing potential health risks. It emphasized the importance of rigorous scientific evaluation, transparent labeling, and stricter enforcement mechanisms. The Court further directed the government to ensure the use of only safe additives, regularly update the PFA Rules based on scientific evidence, and undertake public awareness campaigns to promote informed food choices. This landmark judgment has significantly impacted food safety regulations in India, empowering consumers and encouraging ongoing research to ensure the availability of safe and healthy food for all citizens.
The Swami Achyutanand case marked a significant milestone in food safety regulations in India. It established a stronger legal framework for the regulation of food additives and flavors,emphasized the paramount importance of scientific evidence in determining the safety of food ingredients, empowered consumers by ensuring transparency and disclosure of information on food labels and highlighted the responsibility of the government to protect public health by ensuring safe and healthy food for all citizens.
Written by suhani wadhwa an intern under legal vidhiya.
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