The District Food Office is preparing to conduct checks on prepared and processed foods after Muharram, raising questions about overlapping powers and clashing jurisdictions with the Punjab Food Authority.
Executive District Officer (Health) Captain (retired) Inamul Haq told The Express Tribune that his office could delegate the power to check food for adulteration to the District Food Office under the Fourth and Eighth Schedule of the Punjab Local Government Ordinance (PLGO).
The Pure Food Ordinance, under which city government inspectors previously conducted checks, stood repealed in July when the PFA became active in Lahore district. The EDO said though the inspection powers of the city government under the ordinance had been removed, it retained the authority to check foods for adulteration under the PLGO.
“Accordingly, those powers have been delegated to the staff and the campaign will be a continuation of the work by the DO Food. We have sanitary inspectors and food inspectors to ensure the enforcement of food laws,” he said.
Haq said that they were also currently conducting checks on sabeels and free food handed out at mourning processions. The post-Muharram operation of the city government will be headed by the deputy DO (Food), who will be entrusted the powers of the DO Food, who is currently serving as deputy director (Operations). The city government has published advertisements seeking any complaints regarding food from citizens.
He said that he had asked Acting DO (Food) Chaudhry Ayub to devise a plan to address the issue of power overlap with the PFA. He said that their separate domains would be identified. He said that local government inspections were necessary given the volume of food that needed to be checked.
PFA Director General Asad Islam Mahani said that any exercise of power by the city government in food-related matters would be illegal. “The PFA alone has the right and the mandate to check foods, including for adulteration. It is a question of domain,” he said.
Mahani said that local governments in the other 35 districts of the province retained their food inspection powers under the PFO, since the PFA was only functional in Lahore. “We’re not trying to engage in a power struggle,” he said. “Hopefully the matter will be cleared up soon.”
The PFA Act 2012 enhanced the punishments for food adulteration to a maximum of five years in prison and a Rs500,000 fine. The maximum penalties that local government food inspectors could hand out were three years in prison and a fine of Rs3,000.
Lawyer Azhar Siddique, a prolific filer of civil interest litigation, said that in his opinion, the PFA had the sole jurisdiction on food-related matter.
“Special laws supersede the already existing laws,” he said. “If the matter is not addressed, it will likely be challenged in court.”
He said that similarly, in cases of criminal breach of trust, National Accountability Bureau laws superseded the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), while in banking crimes Federal Investigation Agency laws superseded the PPC.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2012.
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A fight for who gets to take the bribes home?! ...huh