HC: Hope Full Time FSC in J&K ‘Not in Distant Future’

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Srinagar—The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Monday expressed hope that the government will put in place, “not in distant future”, a full-time Food Safety Commissioner in the state.

The state government on July 31 had appointed Dr Pawan Kotwal (IAS), Principal Secretary to the Government Health and Medical Education Department, as the Commissioner of Food Safety “in addition to his own duties”. A notification in this regard was issued by the government under Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 and comes two weeks after the J&K high court pulled up the state for remaining behind in appointing the Commissioner.

As hearing in suo-moto Public Interest Litigation started, a division bench of Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Kumar said that the Act required a ‘full time’ Commissioner Food Safety and it is very important.

As per a status report submitted by the commissioner Secretary, the creation of a full-time FSC was under process and the state’s finance department has been requested to clear the same.

Finance department’s counsel informed the court a proposal in this regard stands already cleared.

“We hope that the process be expedited so that there is full time Food Safety Commissioner in place not in distant future,” the court said.

The court had stressed that the entire organizational structure envisaged under the FSSA 2006 required that all the functionaries should be in place because specific functions have been given to officers of each tier.

The lowest in the ladder is the Food Safety Officer, then Designated Officer, Assistant Commissioner and Commissioner of Food Safety on the top.

The court was also informed about that selection of 16 Food Safety Officers. The examination was held on 16 July and the SSB shall conduct interviews soon, the government informed the court. The select list would be available by the end of September this year, it added.

In so far as the accreditation of the food safety laboratories with National Accreditation Board of Laboratories (NABL), the court directed that process of applying for it be expedited.

Regarding Food analyst, the court was informed that there are two post of food analyst in Srinagar and Jammu each. In so far as the position earlier, one post was vacant at Srinagar and Jammu each. However one post at Srinagar has been filled by appointing Showkat Ali. The post at Jammu is still vacant. “In our previous order we had directed that Food Safety Tribunal at Jammu be made functional. We are informed that the notification 24 August 17 under SRO 349 has been issued whereby Mr. Ashok Kumar Koul has been appointed as presiding officer of the Food safety appellant tribunal Jammu. It is also indicated that the funds are available and supporting staff would be put in place shortly and the department shall to the same on priority basis,” the court said.

Last year, the then chief secretary, B. R Sharma, who appeared before the court, had in fairness admitted that the FSSA 2006 has not been implemented in the manner it ought to be implemented in the state. He, however, had assured the court that he will immediately take review of the all aspects concerning the implementation of the FSSA.

The court said that if there was any shortfall in so far as Food Safety Tribunal at Srinagar was concerned that shall be fulfilled. As per the government’s status report, the ultra violet spectrometer, infra red spectroscopy has been installed in the food testing laboratories. The IPCMS, it said, is being installed and would be completed with two-three days for complete installation. “The other necessary equipments shall also be installed expeditiously.”

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