Thursday July 07, 2022

SHC seeks comments on plea challenging powers of food safety officers

June 14, 2022

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday directed the Sindh Food Authority and provincial advocate general to file comments on a petition that challenged powers of the food safety officers under the Sindh Food Authority Act 2016.

The direction came on a petition against powers of the safety officers, crackdown on distributors of edible oil, and sealing of godowns in different parts of the city. The petitioners submitted that the food authority had issued a notification imposing a ban on certain food items, including edible oil and ghee, and in the name of that notification, safety officers were time and again conducting raids on their shops and godowns.

They submitted that they obtained oil and ghee from licensed companies that were certified and cleared by the Pakistan Standard Quality Control Authority and the respondents had themselves issued valid licences to them for manufacturing, selling and distributing such edible oil and ghee.

They submitted that a private individual had filed a petition in court seeking a ban on the sale of loose and substandard edible oil in Karachi upon which the food authority’s officials started conducting raids on their godowns and sealing the same without any court orders and lawful authority.

The petitioners’ counsel, Yaseen Azad, submitted that the Supreme Court had recently passed an order and declared that an identical section 13 (1) of the Punjab Food Authority Act and powers of sealing premises by the food security officers were unconstitutional and illegal.

He submitted that the impugned notification with regard to the ban on sale of loose edible oil and ghee was issued without any lawful authority. He added that the impugned section 17 of the Sindh Food Authority Act with regard to powers of safety officers was unlawful in light of the Supreme Court judgment.

The counsel submitted that the impugned Act, particularly its section 17, did not specify the qualification of food safety officers and the law itself authorised the government to delegate the powers of a food safety officer to any officer in government without adhering to their knowledge and qualification regarding food.

The high court was requested to declare the Section 17 of the Sindh Food Authority to be ultra vires to the Constitution. The petitioners also sought cancellation of the Sindh Food Authority’s notification with regard to the ban on the sale of loose edible oil and ghee, and sealing of godowns and shops.

A counsel for the food authority sought time to file comments on the petition. A division bench of the SHC comprising Justice Mohammad Junaid Ghaffar and Justice Amjad Hussain Sahito observed that since the vires of the SFA had been challenged by the petitioner, notices should be issued to the advocate general. The high court directed them to file comments by June 27.

In another petition regarding the ban on the loose edible oil and ghee, the food authority informed the high court that it had registered 27 FIRs against the sale of loose edible oil and sealed 74 premises in Karachi, discarding 1,088 litres of edible oil from the shops from May 27 till June 9.

The authority’s officials submitted that they had conducted 306 raids in different districts of the province, sealed 102 premises and discarded 3,910 litres of oil in the entire province during the last two weeks. After taking the comments on record, the SHC directed the petitioner’s counsel to file reply, if any, on the next hearing.