FDA Skirts RTI Plea on Food Delivery Operators under Scanner for Flouting Hygiene Norms
It may be recalled that the Food & Drugs Administration (FDA) had recently raided the popular online food delivery services, namely, Swiggy, Foodpanda, Zomato & Uber Eats in Mumbai and Pune. These raids had revealed that 112 outlets of these fashionable companies in Mumbai and over 400 in Pune procured food for their customers from dingy cooking units that possessed no licence, showed utter neglect of food safety and food hygiene norms and conducted no health check-ups of those who cooked and served the food.
 
Information about these raids should have been put up on the FDA website suo motu under Section 4 of the RTI Act, as it is now a public concern since takeaway food has become trendy and popular with large sections of the population. Instead, crucial information has been denied to the RTI application filed by this writer on 10 January 2019. (Track FDA Raids on Eateries by Filing RTI
 
The public information officer (PIO), KN Dabhade, has only given partial information and has denied crucial information such as the names of the outlets which violated all norms of health and safety; photographic and video evidence of the raids; the proposal for further action against Swiggy, Foodpanda, Zomato and Uber Eats. He has pushed the responsibility over to the additional commissioner, FDA, to reply to these important requests in his reply dated 19th January. 
 
He has only provided me with a copy of the directive sent by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the central authority which governs the FDAs of all states and Union Territories. The copy of this crucial letter clearly states that FDAs of all states including Maharashtra had been asked to give a report by 31 December 2018, on the action they have taken against erring outlets from where these fashionable online food service companies procure food but this information has not been given to me, despite the request in my RTI application.
 
To further elaborate, the PIO has refused to give the following information that I had requested in my RTI application:
 
  • Copies of all reports of raids conducted on 350 or more outlets of online food service apps – Zomato, Swiggy, Uber Eats, Foodpanda and any other;
  • Copies of photographs and videos taken of the kitchen, toilets and any other that may have been clicked or shot, during the above raids;
  • A list of all the outlets that were raided along with their addresses;
  • Copies of correspondence of the authorities of Zomato, Swiggy, Uber Eats, Foodpanda and any other with your office, in this matter;
  • Copies of the proposal for further action/action taken against Zomato, Swiggy, Uber Eats, Foodpanda and any others for being responsible for putting their customers’ health at a risk.

 

The PIO has only provided me with a copy of the proposal and the decision to conduct raids on Zomato, Swiggy, Uber Eats, Foodpanda and any other. The letter by the joint director states:

“FSSAI has launched a drive against hotels/restaurants without FSSAI licence/registration listed by leading food aggregations such as Zomato, Swiggy, Foodpanda, Uber Eats etc on their platforms. As a result, these e-commerce food business operators (FBOs) had delisted 10,500 non-compliant hotels/restaurants from their platforms. States/UTs were asked to take appropriate action against non-compliant FBOs as per the FSS Act 2006, rules and regulations made thereunder. States/UTs were also advised to conduct a special drive in this regard and ensure that such FBOs have the registration, state license or central license strictly as per their eligibility and thereupon to submit an action taken report to this office by 31December 2018.’’ – signed Praveen Jarga, joint director (this letter was addressed to the commissioners of food safety of all states/Union Territories.

 
That transparency is most vital for this issue, reflects in the information given by Dr Pallavi Darade, FDA commissioner, Maharashtra, to Moneylife in an interview with her. (FDA Chief Seeks Consumer Audit for Zomato, Swiggy, Foodpanda and Uber Eats) She had categorically stated therein that:
 
  • though it was promised that food had been delivered from this or that outlet, many a time it was found that the food was actually delivered from the dhaba right next to the customer’s house, or from a very small outlet  and at times even from homemade kitchens where facilities were inadequate; 
  • there was no pest control; kitchens were dirty; 
  • the water in which the food needs to be cooked was not potable and was never tested for safety; 
  • sometimes toilets were very close to the kitchens and medical check-up of people who were serving the food under these extremely unhygienic conditions was never done;
  • sometimes dirty clothing was lying around;
  • sometimes the storerooms where raw material was kept was not hygienic.
 
Pending a reply from the additional commissioner, I propose to follow up with my first appeal.
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
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COMMENTS

Mahesh S Bhatt

2 months ago

Sir Police hafta of Rs500/Rs 2000 is on So Carry On FDA its showpiece most stupid unwanted legislation of British? How many people have died of Diarrohoea by eating outside food? Mahesh Bhatt

Delhi HC Asks CIC To Reconsider Appeal of 2006 Mumbai Blast Accused
In what appears to be a bold step towards reinforcing the rule of law in the country, an individual under the scanner for a crime has been added to those myriad segments of the society who harness the Right to Information (RTI) Act for procuring justice. While we know of innumerable RTI applications filed from behind the closed doors of jails, in this case an alleged accused in the deadly 2006 Mumbai train blast case, Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddiqui, has used RTI to procure a copy of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) report placed before the home ministry, which according to him has stated that he was falsely implicated in the serial blasts.
 
Siddiqui was tried in the 7/11 blast case and was convicted on 30 September 2015 by the Special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) Court.  The petitioner stated that the said verdict is pending confirmation before the Bombay High Court. When he got to know that the IB has placed a report with the home ministry in 2009 wherein he is probably falsely implicated, he filed an RTI application with the central public information officer (CPIO) to procure a true copy of the IB report submitted to the home ministry. 
 
On 21 September 2017, the CPIO rejected the application and denied the information, under Section 24(1) of the RTI Act wherein IB is excluded from the purview of the RTI Act.
 
Siddiqui then filed his first appeal, contending that CPIO's rejection citing Section 24(1) of the RTI Act, was invalid because the same section also states "the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this sub-section..."
 
The first appellate authority (FAA), however, rejected this contention and upheld the decision of the CPIO.
 
Siddiqui then filed a second appeal with the Central Information Commission (CIC). CIC Yashovardhan Azad also rejected the request stating in his order of 26 March 2018 that, “The Commission finds that the present query raised by the appellant fails to satisfy either of the essential preconditions of being related to allegations of corruption and human rights violations. As such, the RTI request is bad per se in law and the present appeal is dismissed.’’
 
Siddiqui then approached the Delhi High Court. His lawyer, Arpit Bhargava, argued in the court on 16 January 2019, that,  “the information sought by the petitioner pertains to the violation of human rights; that Siddiqui was/has been falsely implicated in the 7/11 blast case by fabrication of evidence and was awarded capital punishment on the basis of false and fabricated evidence.  Thus, his case falls within the scope of human rights violation.’’ 
 
The High Court observed that the 'conclusion’ arrived at by the CIC is “erroneous, as the information does relate to a violation of human rights.’’
 
Justice Vibhu Bakhru from the Delhi HC further observed that, as per the Section 24 (1) of the RTI Act, only the CIC has the authority to examine the document (the IB report) and decide whether it is fit for disclosure. 
The HC order states:  “In terms of second proviso to Section 24(1) of the RTI Act, the information sought for by the petitioner can be provided to him only on the approval of the CIC. Clearly, the CIC would have to examine whether such information is relevant and material. If the CIC on examination of the material finds that it is not so, the approval for disclosure of such information would not be granted.’’
 
The HC order of 16 January 2019 also states: “Section 8 of the RTI Act provides for certain exemptions from disclosure of information and the said provisions would be equally applicable to information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violation. Thus, the concerned authorities would have to examine whether the information sought for by the petitioner is otherwise exempt from such disclosure by virtue of Section 8 of the RTI Act.’’
 
Thus, the matter has been “remanded to the CIC to consider afresh having regard to the observations made in this order.’’
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
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COMMENTS

Meenal Mamdani

3 months ago

Wonderful. If the accused can obtain the said document and that proves malfeasance of the police, RTI would have served its purpose.

REPLY

Wahid Shaikh

In Reply to Meenal Mamdani 1 month ago

Good,pls contact me Vinita I am one accused in that case

SC issues contempt notice to RBI in RTI case
The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on a contempt petition which alleged that the central bank did not provide information sought about the inspection reports of some banks and on the alleged irregularities in the case of Sahara Group of companies under the transparency law.
 
A bench headed by Justice Nageshwar Rao issued the notice on a petition filed by a Mumbai resident who contended that the RBI had refused to part with the sought information despite apex court rulings on the issue.
 
The petitioner, Girish Mittal, represented by senior counsel Prashant Bhushan and Pranav Sachdeva, contended that he had sought information under the RTI Act in December 2015 like copies of inspection reports of ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and SBI from April 2011 and copies of cases files with file notings on various irregularities detected by RBI in the case of Sahara Group of companies and erstwhile Bank of Rajasthan.
 
The contempt petition is concerned with the "denial of information", he said.
 
The petition recalled the Supreme Court ruling in a case that RBI is clearly not in any fiduciary relationship with any bank. RBI has no legal duty to maximise the benefit of any public sector or private sector bank and thus there is no relationship of 'trust' between them. 
 
"The RBI ought to act with transparency and not hide information that might embarrass individual banks. It is duty bound to comply with the provisions of the RTI Act and disclose the information sought," the apex court had observed in that case.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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COMMENTS

P M Ravindran

3 weeks ago

May I ask just one question: had the information commissioner imposed the mandatory penalty on the defaulting PIO of the RBI? I am sure he hadn't. And there begins the history of subversion of the law that the information commissioners are appointed under and tasked to enforce.

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