SC refuses to ease country-wide ban on endosulfan

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to ease its three-month old ban on the manufacture, sale and use of pesticide endosulfan despite an expert committee report favouring lifting the restrictions for all states except the worst-affected Kerala and Karnataka.

However, a bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar agreed to consider the industry’s request for permission to export the existing stock of endosulfan and asked the expert committee to study relevant material including international conventions to report to the court in three weeks about modalities for safe export of the pesticide stock.

“We cannot just export our health and environmental problem to another country,” the bench said when senior advocate Harish Salve said that many countries which were still using it be allowed to import it from India to save the industry from recovering the cost and be able to pay workers.

Additional solicitor general Gaurav Banerjee requested the court to permit a thorough examination of the controversy relating to the hazardous effects of endosulfan on health and environment.

He also said that banning endosulfan would not solve the problem for the farmers, who would have to look for an alternative pesticide. He said no one knows whether the alternative was equally or more hazardous to health and environment.

However, the bench said it would examine other issues later as it was focused only on allowing exports limited to the existing stocks and that too only of that quantity for which the industry has firm orders from other countries.

It also asked the committee to suggest an environmentally safe mechanism for disposal of the pesticide that remained in India after meeting the export commitments.

The expert committee jointly chaired by the director-general of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Agriculture Commissioner of India in its interim report to the court found ample proof of health disorders among people and damage to the environment to recommend enforcement of the SC’s total ban on use of endosulfan in Kerala and Karnataka. The other states could be allowed to resume its use, it had recommended.

On May 13, the court had banned use of endosulfan across the country while directing the expert committee to report on the future course of action. The team of experts headed by ICMR DG V M Katoch and Agricultural Commissioner Gurbachan Singh conducted field studies and spot visits.

The team concluded: “The major users of endosulfan based on 2009-10 data including Haryana, Punjab, Bihar and Maharashtra did not report any negative effect of endosulfan use on crops, human health and water with the exception of Kerala and Karnataka.”

The committee said a nation-wide study on the harmful effects of endosulfan could take up to two years. The report came in response to the court’s queries on a PIL filed by the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), which had sought a ban on endosulfan.


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