The High Court Wednesday ordered police to file criminal cases against culprits for using toxic chemical to ripen and preserve fruits and sell them under the Special Power Act.

The maximum punishment for such offence is “death penalty”.

The order comes following a writ petition filed by lawyer Manzill Murshid as public interest litigation on behalf of Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh on May 10, 2010 seeking court directives on the government to take steps to stop the use of chemicals in fruits as well as their sale.

Formalin applied on fish, fruit, meat, and milk causes throat cancer, blood cancer, childhood asthma, and skin diseases, while colouring agent Calcium Carbide may lead to cancer in kidney, liver, skin, prostate, and lungs.

The court in its earlier ruling in 2010 asked the government to explain why it should not be directed to take effective measures to protect public health by stopping the use of chemicals in fruits, especially apples, mangoes, grapes, bananas and papayas.

The court had also asked the commerce, food and home secretaries to form a committee to make recommendations to the government to stop the use of chemicals in fruits and submit a report to the court within 15 days.

But the respondents did not make any reply to the ruling and order.

Between these days, law enforcers and officials of authorities concerned including Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institute, market monitoring cell of the commerce ministry used to conduct drives against the perpetrators.

They also destroyed huge amount of adulterated fruits across the country.

But since the extent of crime did not go down, the court comes with its fresh directives.

The lawyer said unscrupulous traders use chemicals such as carbide to ripen fruits, and also formalin to elongate their shelf life.

The High Court also asked the National Board of Revenue (NBR) and the Customs Department to monitor land and sea ports and test imported fruits to find out whether they are free from chemicals.

The HC said the use of chemicals to ripen and preserve fruits is illegal, and ordered the BSTI and law enforcers to constantly monitor fruit depots across the country to prevent storage or sale of contaminated fruits.

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