The High Court yesterday said anyone involved in underhand dealings during examination of food items would be sent to jail.
The court is aware of the allegations of such dealings, especially since last month when it ordered removal of 52 items from the market, said the HC bench of Justice Sheikh Hassan Arif and Justice Razik Al-Jalil while hearing a writ petition.
“If we find any proof of anybody’s involvement in underhand dealing, we will send them directly to jail, not to the Anti-Corruption Commission,” the HC said.
The bench directed the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA), Directorate of National Consumers Rights Protection (DNCRP) and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) to hold drives against food adulteration throughout the year and periodically submit reports before the court on the steps taken against food adulteration.
The court ordered DNCRP to launch in two months a round-the-clock hotline for consumers who would like to file complaints on food adulteration.
It also asked DNCRP to keep its official number, +8801777 753 668 operative round-the-clock, including on holidays, and said the officials should work on holidays.
Hours before this hearing, BFSA Chairman Mahfuzul Haque appeared before the HC bench and apologised for not properly complying with its May 12 order.
The court exonerated him from the contempt of court rule on the condition that he would never defy a court order and would conduct drives against food adulteration throughout the year with the assistance of other relevant agencies.
The BFSA yesterday submitted a report to the HC claiming that it had removed most of the 52 substandard food items from markets across the country and filed separate cases against the companies concerned as per the court’s May 12 directives.
The BSTI also submitted a report to the HC saying that it had retested samples of 42 of 52 food items, all of which were found substandard in the first test.
In the retest, the BSTI found 26 items safe and cancelled the licences of 16, BSTI lawyer Sarkar MR Hassan told reporters.
While hearing the writ petition filed by Shihab Uddin Khan, the HC on May 12 directed BFSA and DNCRP to immediately remove the 52 food items from the market and to submit a report to the court on May 23.
Hearing the petition on May 23, the HC bench slammed the BFSA for not complying with its order.
“Bangladesh Food Safety Authority’s activities over removing 52 substandard food items from markets are mere eyewash,” said the HC bench.
The court then directed the BFSA chairman to appear before it yesterday to explain why his office had not complied with the court order. The BFSA chairman cannot go unpunished, the bench said, issuing a rule asking him to explain in two weeks as to why contempt of court proceedings should not be brought against him.
The court also said if the producers of the 52 food items appealed to the BSTI, the authorities should conduct further tests and submit the reports to the court by June 13.
Lawyers Kamal Ul Alam and AM Amin Uddin appeared for the BFSA chairman, Mohammed Faridul Islam for the BFSA and Deputy Attorney General Mokhlesur Rahman for the state.