80 percent of food adulteration accused walk free in Gujarat

Over 80 percent of accused in food adulteration cases in Gujarat in the last five years were acquitted due to the state government’s laxity and delay in prosecuting them, according to official data made available Monday.

The data forms part of details furnished by the state government to the Gujarat High Court on food adulteration cases and convictions in the last five years.

The figures, shared with the high court Saturday, suggested that 1,356 out of 1,642 offenders under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act were acquitted during this period by different courts.

A single judge bench of the court earlier criticized the government for its sluggish progress in conducting tests of allegedly adulterated food samples and the subsequent prosecution in such cases.

Justice M.R. Shah said: ‘The courts are required to quash the criminal complaints or acquit the accused on ground of prejudice caused to the parties due to delay on the part of the authorities.’

The figures suggested that in 2010, the state lost 381 out of 425 cases decided by the courts. In effect, nearly 90 percent accused were cleared of charges by courts.

The conviction rate was 12.40 percent in 2009, 15.24 percent in 2008, 22.77 percent in 2007, 18.88 percent in 2006 and 21.28 percent in 2005.

In last last five years, the health authorities across the state took around 62,000 samples. Out of these, 58,423 cases proved genuine food samples related to these cases were sent for testing in government laboratories.

The high court was hearing a food adulteration case related to Pepsico Holdings Limited regarding.

During the hearing, the court noted that the offenders were taking benefit of the government’s delay in giving consent for sending samples of food and drinks for tests in laboratories of other states.

According to the act, the health authorities have to give an opportunity to an accused to get rechecked the samples of food or drinks found adulterated by government labs. For the recheck, the government’s consent is necessary.

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