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Supreme Court reserves order on exporting raw endosulfan

Author(s): Savvy Soumya Misra

Issue: Nov 18, 2011
Decision on exporters’ plea on November 21

Pesticide manufacturers pleaded for permission to export raw endosulfan on November 14 when the Supreme Court took up the case for hearing. The court, on September 30, had allowed the export of only endosulfan formulations  (chemicals combined with raw endosulfan) to countries from which they had received export orders prior to the ban on May 13 this year when the apex court had imposed a complete ban on production, use, sale and export of endosulfan.

The three judge bench, comprising chief justice S H Kapadia, Swatantar Kumar and K S P Radhakrishnan have reserved their decision on whether to allow the export for November 21. The pesticide manufacturers have been asked to file an interim application in this regard.

The petitioners in the case, the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), requested for an adjournment on November 14 as they wanted some more time to be able to respond to the counter affidavit that was filed by the Pesticides Manufacturers Association of India after the last hearing on October 10.

In it, the manufacturers have reiterated their stand that, though, it is alleged that there are health impacts of endosulfan in Kasaragod in Kerala and Dakshin Kanada in Karnataka, there is no causative link established between the pesticide and the reported health problems. The petitioners in their initial reaction had dismissed the claims as false statements and a deliberate effort to mislead the court.  They are now working on drafting an extensive reply to the affidavit.

On the same day, the Central government, filed an affidavit regarding a change in the terms of reference for the  Supreme Court appointed joint committee, comprising the agriculture commissioner and the director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research. “These terms of reference are for a long term study that the committee is supposed to do,” said Deepak Prakash, advocate for the petitioners.

The government wants the joint committee to explain the following in its long term final report: the extent of endosulfan’s impact on human health and the environment; whether its impact has anything to do with the way it is used; the extent of the hazard; the alternatives to endosulfan; if endosulfan is to be allowed then the precautions that should be taken; and if the pesticide has to be phased out and the manner and mode in which it has to be done.

The next hearing is scheduled for November 21.

Stockholm Convention

While pesticide manufacturers in India are trying to get the Supreme Court ban on the pesticide lifted, the international community is phasing out endosulfan. The secretary-general of the United Nations, acting in his capacity as a depository, issued a notification on October 27, stating that the international phase-out of endosulfan, with certain exemptions under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), will come into effect by the end of October next year.

The secretary-general has said that the parties to the Convention should notify the depository if they are unable to accept the decision of the Conference of Parties (CoP) taken in April that listed endosulfan for elimination with specific exemptions.

The CoP decision will enter into force for all parties, except those who have notified non-acceptance, on expiry of one year from the date of communication by the depository. India has already expressed willingness to join the phase-out over five years (extendable to 10 years).
The POP Review Committee of the Convention has already set up an ad hoc working group to review and identify information gaps on alternatives to endosulfan and to assess endosulfan alternatives.

Back home

The National Human Rights Commission has, meanwhile, issued a notice to the Kerala government for not paying adequate compensation to the victims of endosulfan in Kasaragod. The Commission is also planning to approach the Supreme Court for execution of its orders for paying Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of the victims who lost their lives or were rendered unfit due to the harmful effects of the pesticide.

The state government had announced an increase in the compensation from Rs. 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh to the victims and budgeted funds are being released. The state has sought the Centre’s assistance for payment of compensation as the state government alone could not pay the entire amount.
But it’s not  just the funds, the Oomen Chandy government has also issued a government order to reshuffle the district level relief and rehabilitation cell, keeping the civil society out of it. The cell is yet to be dissolved.

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