KATHMANDU, July 11: The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the decision of the government to take a u-turn on conducting pesticide residue tests on vegetables and fruits imported from India and third countries.
The SC stayed the decision of the government in response to three different writ petitions filed at the apex court challenging the government decision to backtrack from its own decision to conduct pesticide residue tests. The petitioners claimed that the government was violating the rights to health of the ordinary public by revoking the decision.
A single bench of Justice Ananda Mohan Bhattarai issued the interlocutory stay order in the name of the government authorities not to implement its decision to withdrew the pesticide residue tests and also summoned the government authorities — the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Measurement and Quality Control -- to attend the next hearing scheduled for July 15.
The bench stated that the apex court would decide whether to continue the stay order issued on Wednesday in the next hearing. The bench also directed the authorities to attest their relevant documents and decisions in relation to this case.
Stating that the government's decision on July 3 to backtrack from conducting the pesticide residue tests had undermined the overall provisions of the constitution and the laws relating to the rights of the public, the apex court said it would conduct the next hearing in the presence of both the parties.
The Supreme Court was responding to three public interest litigations (PILs) filed by various groups of lawyers representing different organizations. Advocates Swagat Nepal and Narayan Prasad Dawadi on behalf of the Independent National Campaign along with the Consumer Rights Protection Forum and advocate Kanchan Krishna Neupane had moved the apex court seeking its intervention in the government decision.
Accusing the government of backtracking from the pesticide residue tests on imported vegetables and fruits under Indian pressure, the petitions had demanded that the apex court issue a stay order to conduct the tests mandatorily on the vegetables and fruits as this is a matter of serious public health concern.
Claiming that the pesticides used in vegetables and fruits adversely affect the health of pregnant women and their babies, the petitioners have urged the apex court to direct the authorities to make compulsory provision for testing the vegetables and fruits before importing them into the country. They have maintained that the decision to exempt lab tests grossly violates the people's right to health.
Citing lack of testing machines at the customs points, authorities in Nepal had stopped testing pesticide residue on the imported vegetables and fruits.
Among other things, the petitioners claimed that the notice published by the government in the Nepal Gazette about testing imported vegetables and fruits for pesticides residue cannot be changed by the government itself as the issue has become a serious matter related to public health.