Chandigarh ,April 8, 2013 : The Punjab and Haryana High Court today accepted the plea raised in a Public Interest Petition (PIL) by public health activist Hemant Goswami that all cancer-causing agents identified by ‘World Health Organisation (WHO)’ and ‘International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)’ should be banned along-with a liability and compensatory mechanism to make organisations trading in such cancer-causing agents legally accountable. Notice has been issued to the Union Government and States of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.
Petitioner Hemant Goswami mentioned that, “WHO and its affilate IARC has in its over 50 years of research identified hundreds of agents as sure-shot cancer causing agents (Carcinogens) and have thereafter classified the carcinogens as Group 1, 2-A and 2-B depending on scientific evidence. Despite such carcinogens having been clearly identified, the Government does nothing and such cancer-causing agents frequently make way to the market as a part of daily use substances and are used in various industries to which people are exposed daily and thereby it has resulted in increased cancer prevalence in India.” The petitioner prayed that all carcinogens identified as belonging to Group 1, 2-A and 2-B be immediately banned and phased-out in a time-bound scientific manner; to have proper “Occupation Safety and Health” mechanism in occupations where people are exposed to carcinogens; to conduct proper independent studies and undertake independent research without any influence from the industry about risk of agents used in the industry; and to make suitable arrangements to compensate and provide damages, wherein any person who is exposed to any of identified carcinogens during his life-time at his work-place or otherwise.
The PIL also highlighted the nexus between Government officials and the industry and mentioned that “it’s a well known fact that many high ranking officers and public servants in the Government turn a blind eye to such harmful products/ substances for extraneous corrupt gains and thereby in corrupt collusion omit to stop such carcinogens from being produced, circulated and/or marketed. On the contrary, such officers/ public-servants illegally use their position to justify the use of such harmful products/ substance. The unholy nexus and collusion between the industry and the public servants result in a situation which results in mortality and morbidity of a large number of people; which is no less than cold-blooded murder. Tweaking of the policies/ rules, and deliberate failure to supervise and oversee; which consequently resulting in the death of lakhs of people, is much more severe and serious crime than the cruellest of the murder.”
The writ petition further emphasised that, “No person, including the Government, has any fundamental right, or any other right, to trade in any article/ agent/ substance which have the effect of depriving any person of his/her life. Article 21 which guarantees ‘Right to Life’ always override and have precedence over right to engage in business.”
Goswami mentioned, “That it is also the duty of the State to fix liabilities and devise an effective compensatory mechanism for all such occupations/ process/ substances wherein the business establishment/ organisation/ State is made to automatically compensate a person who acquits any ailment, which is known to be acquired by exposure of a person to such processes/ chemicals/ substances/ process with which the business establishment/ organisation/ State is engaged in. Sufficient duration of exposure of the person to the processes/ chemicals/ substances/ process related to the business establishment/ organisation/ State in itself should be considered as enough reason to compensate the individual.”
“This Writ-Petition for banning identified Carcinogens is the first major step in our war against Cancer,” Hemant added.