July 10, 2019 06:00 AM NPT
KATHMANDU, June 10: The Supreme Court (SC) has scheduled the initial hearings on the case of pesticide residue tests for the vegetables and fruits imported from India as well as other third countries for Wednesday.
The apex court scheduled the initial hearing on the case after the issue became a serious public agenda with the government backtracking on its previous decision, allegedly under Indian pressure.
Challenging the government's decision to withdraw pesticide residue tests, two separate public interest litigations (PIL) were lodged by the Forum for Consumer Rights Protection and Independent National Campaigns at the Supreme Court.
Accusing the government of withdrawing its decision to conduct pesticide residue tests on imported vegetables and fruits under Indian pressure, the petitions demanded that the apex court issue a stay order to conduct the tests compulsorily on the vegetables and fruits as this is a matter of serious public health concern.
Representing the Independent National Campaign, advocates Swagat Nepal and Narayan Prasad Dawadi filed the petition on Tuesday seeking apex court intervention into the matter. On Monday, the Consumer Rights Protection Forum had filed a separate petition, challenging the government's decision to roll back the testing of imported fruits and vegetables.
Both petitions sought the apex court order to the authorities—the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture and the Department of Measurement and Quality Control to conduct the tests before importing vegetables from India and third countries.
Claiming that pesticides used in vegetable 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 before importing vegetables and fruits into the country. The decision of the government to exempt the lab tests has grossly violated the people's right to health, they have argued.
Citing the reason of unavailability of testing machines at the border customs points, the authorities stopped testing the imported vegetables and fruits for pesticides. But the petitioners claimed that the government's decision violated the people's fundamental right to quality and healthy foods as well.
Similarly, the petitioners claimed that the notice published by the government in 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.
A letter from the Embassy of India in Kathmandu, dispatched on May 29, 2019 and received by the government authorities through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs came to light as the Council of Ministers withdrew its previous decision, exempting imported vegetables and fruits from compulsory testing last week.