Bombay High Court raps animal husbandry department over ‘poor quality food’

Mumbai: Observing that it is only concerned with the ‘quality’ of food being served to the public, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday rapped the Animal Husbandry Department for dragging its feet over conducting regular inspections on poultry farms across Maharashtra. The HC has accordingly directed the concerned authorities to consider checking poultry farms in the state to ensure ‘healthy and fit’ birds are brought in the markets.

A division bench of Justices Naresh Patil and Girish Kulkarni said, “You (department) cannot run away from your responsibilities. We fail to understand why the authorities cannot enter the poultry farms and inspect the condition of birds, before they are brought in the market.” “Our only concern is that the food which is being made available for the citizens in the markets, must not be contaminated. What if something wrong takes place? Will you continue saying you have no authority to inspect birds in poultry farms?” Justice Patil made this observation.

The observations were made in response to the submissions of government pleader Purnima Kantharia, who submitted that the officials of the animal husbandry department, were not empowered to enter the premises of poultry farms to inspect the birds, therein.
Kantharia further argued that the officials of the department did check the birds but only after they were brought to the markets, for human consumption. The bench was, however, of the opinion that if the birds are not checked, while in farms, then no purpose would be served by examining their health on their arrival in the markets.

Justice Patil said, “There is no point in inspecting the birds when they are already in the markets for human consumption. What if some birds are not checked? The birds must ideally be checked even during their stay at farms.” “You just cannot cite lack of powers and say you cannot enter the poultry premises. You must enter and see how the birds are maintained there and if any probiotic or antibiotic is being administered,” Justice Patil remarked.

After being pulled up, Kantharia informed the bench that the department by a letter dated January 9, 2018 has stated to look into the issue. She further informed the bench that the ministry is likely to decide on this issue soon. The bench was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Citizen Circle for Social Welfare and Education, represented by advocate Shehzad Nagvi, highlighting the ‘sorry state of affairs’ of the poultry farms operating in the state. The PIL sought effective regulation of the poultry farms, which usually are not checked by any authority.

Posting the matter for further hearing after two weeks, the bench expressed ‘hope’ that the authorities would enter the farms and conduct inspections. The bench also directed the authorities to issue an advisory to all the poultry farms asking them to ‘strictly’ adhere to the norms.

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