BFSA Chairman Mahfuzul Haque exempted from contempt of court charges
The High Court has observed that there are allegations of underhand dealings between Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institute (BSTI) officials and food manufacturing companies in the testing and re-testing of food products.
The court warned that officials involved in such malpractice would be sent straight to jail, instead of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
The High Court bench of Justice Sheikh Hassan Arif and Justice Razik Al-Jalil also passed an exemption order to Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) Chairman, Mahfuzul Haque, on Sunday.
The court passed the order after BFSA Chairman Mahfuzul Haque appeared in court offering an unconditional apology for not complying with the court’s orders.
On May 12, the court asked Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI), BFSA, and the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP), to take immediate action to remove the 52 substandard products from the market and stop their production until they meet mandatory BSTI standards.
Following that, on May 23, the court rebuked the BFSA chairman, summoned him, and issued contempt of court charges as he did not comply with the court's May 12 order.
Ordering BFSA and DNCRP to submit a progress report by May 23, with implementation of the order, the court asked the three organizations to ensure food safety and proper standards for all products on the market.
DNCRP ordered to open hotline to receive complaints
The High Court has also ordered the DNCRP to introduce a hotline number for consumers so that they can easily file complaints about related issues.
According to the order, DNCRP has two months to comply with the court's directives.
Barrister Shihab Uddin Khan stood for the petitioner, Conscious Consumer Society (CCS), Advocate AM Amin Uddin and Barrister Kamal Uk Alam represented the BFSA chairman, Barrister Faridul Alam stood for BFSA, Barrister Sarkar MR Hassan for BSTI, and Barrister Kamruzzaman Kochi for the DNCRP.
The report and the petition
The BSTI released their report on May 2 which found 52 food items to be substandard and/or adulterated, out of 406 food items in 27 categories that it tested.
The products included: Duncan Natural Drinking Water, ACI Coriander Powder, Danish Turmeric Powder, Pran Turmeric Powder, Pran Curry Powder, Madhuban Lacchii Shemai, Baghabari Special Ghee, Mollah Iodine Salt, Rupchanda Sesame Oil (Bangladesh Edible Oil), Well Food Lacchi Shemai, Madina Iodine Salt, Dada Super Iodine Salt, Sun Food Turmeric Powder, Teer Sesame Oil, Pushti Sesame Oil, Fresh Turmeric Powder, Mithai Lacchi Shemai, Mizan Drinking Water, and more.
Various online and print media outlets ran reports that day and the next day, prompting CCS to send a legal notice to secretaries of the food, industries and commerce ministries, the DGs of BSTI and DNCRP, and the chairman of BFSA on May 6.
The citizen rights organization, CCS, urged that the necessary action be taken to have these products recalled within 24 hours.
However, no action was taken. The authorities failed to take any legal steps against the companies responsible for manufacturing the substandard products.
On May 9, after CCS filed the petition, the High Court expressed its dissatisfaction and summoned BSTI and BFSA officials to explain why they had failed to withdraw the products.