The Delhi High Court has lambasted officials of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India for misusing law to extort money from importers of edible items including chocolates in granting no objection certificates and warned that erring persons will be sent to jail.
Justice Manmohan said FSSAI officers, authorised to test the samples of imported edibles and grant NoCs to customs department to release them to the importers, have been creating “undue hassles” in clearing the food articles and use the law, which is otherwise “good”, as a tool to extort money from innocent traders.
Expressing dismay over the rise in such incidents, the court warned that it may think of sending the guilty officials to jail. “If a policeman (authorised officers) becomes terrorist and extortionist then who will have faith in him. The FSSAI is not understanding my polite way of dealing the matter.
I think one officer has to be sent to jail,” the judge said. “Other day, I was in the mood to send one of the officers behind the bars. Hearing a food and health matter is not good for my health. I just cannot understand why they are are not testing the sample and releasing the same? How these things will be controlled,” the judge asked.
The FSS Act has a provision of appointing authorised officers who are empowered to carry out inspection of imported food and issue a no objection certificate (NoC) or Rejection report (RR) to the Customs department leading either release or confiscation of the imported edibles.
The court’s observations came during the hearing of the petition of M/s United Distributors Incorporation which had imported a consignment of chocolates from Belgium in January.
The firm alleged the consignment has neither been cleared nor been tested by the authorised officers despite a direction that such refrigerated consignment should be tested and cleared within 24 hours. The court asked the FSSAI to test the consignment and submit the report before it on July 15.