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SC life term nudge on milk

New Delhi, Dec. 5: The Supreme Court today asked states to bring amendments so that those guilty of milk adulteration can be punished with life terms, citing Bengal among a handful of states that have already done so.

Under the current provisions of Section 272 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the maximum punishment is only six months, or a fine of Rs 1,000, or both.

A bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and A.K. Sikri said the existing provisions were grossly inadequate to deal with the rising menace of milk adulteration.

“We feel that the punishment in Section 272 IPC is not sufficient. We want other states to make similar amendments like Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal have done,” the bench said.

The three states had brought their own amendments that provided for life imprisonment to those indulging in production and marketing of adulterated milk

The court was hearing a batch of PILs alleging large-scale distribution and sale of adulterated milk and the lack of strong action by the authorities in containing the problem.

One of the petitions cited research reports that contended adulterated milk and its products, used in the production of detergents, refined oil, caustic soda and urea posed the risk of cancer and other diseases.

An advocate appearing for one of the petitioners contended that milk contaminated with synthetic material was being sold in various states, particularly those in the north. This, he said, posed serious threat to the life and health of consumers.

The lawyer said samples collected by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India in 2011 had revealed large-scale sale of adulterated milk across the country.

Some states claimed during today’s hearing that there was no adulteration in their areas but Justice Radhakrishnan, heading the bench, was not satisfied.

Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra were among the states that made the claims.

The court directed the states and Centre to file affidavits on the measures taken by them so far to prevent and act against those indulging in such adulteration.

Section 272 of the Indian Penal Code states: “Whoever adulterates any article of food or drink, so as to make such article noxious, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.”