Formalin Control Act & Concerned Actuality

Formalin became the name of poison in this country due to the massive miss use of this chemical substance, which is quite threatening for human health when applied to human food and left it untreated for consumption but over the time the use of formalin increased by farmers and businessmen to preserve food or to gain more profit put the government into a new challenge to control such miss use thus, the Formalin Control Act 2015 came into existence. This article is roughly about the importation, production, transportation, storage, sale and use of controlled substances of Formalin based on the Formalin Control Act 2015 (ফরমালিন নিয়ন্ত্রণ আইন, ২০১৫). Now, what actually formalin is? A 37% aqueous (water) solution of formaldehyde, a pungent gas, with the chemical formula HCHO, used as an antiseptic, disinfectant, and especially today as a fixative for histology (the study of tissues under the microscope). It is being used disingenuously in an inordinate level to lengthen perishable food’s storage life.

Why we be concerned about handling formalin on foodstuffs? As reported by American Cancer Society, short-term health reactions of formaldehyde exposure consist of nausea, coughing, skin irritation, wheezing, watery eyes, burning sensations of the eyes, throat and nose. In addition, The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the WHO, has settled that formaldehyde is ‘carcinogenic to humans’ based on higher risks of nasopharyngeal cancer and leukaemia and National Cancer Institute have determined that hazard to formaldehyde may induce leukaemia, specifically myeloid leukaemia. Pursuant to some other researches formalin can cause liver damage, kidney failure, and lung problems (pneumonia, bronchitis, allergic reactions, asthma) and also dementia and loss of memory.

So it is definite that the usage of formalin has the inimical effect on human health and by reasons it was needed to stop the outrage practice of using formalin on foods. The Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed proposed Formalin Control Bill on 4th November 2013 which was passed on 16th February 2015 through voice votes and after President s signature on 18th February 2015 it became in effect.

Formalin

Formalin in our daily food | Photo Credit: Thinkstock

According to the preface of the Act, as Formalin (Section 2: ‘Formalin’ implies Formalin, Formaldehyde, Paraformaldehyde and any proportion of its solution and government approved any ascertained substance to produce Formalin) is a detrimental chemical substance and because of its abuse, public health is at stake. So in order to prevent the misuse of Formalin and to import, manufacture, transport, stock, sale, usage control of Formalin, the Act came into force.

It is not like the usage of Formalin is totally banned from the country! One can obviously import, manufacture, transport, stock, sale and use Formalin if he holds a license. However, if that person breaches any provision of the license and so his license become invalid then he cannot obtain or renew his license proviso he will get the scope to explain his reasons for such breach. However, if any license holder goes through any damage due to any order of the licensing authority, in that case, he cannot claim any damage or fees that he submitted.

For licensing, the authority will be the Government in case of import and manufacture and in case of transport, stock, sale and control of usage of Formalin the Deputy Commissioner will have the jurisdiction. Moreover, there shall be Formalin Control Committee in every district and sub-district and the formation, duty and liability, panel and relevant other matters of the committee shall be determined by the regulations of the committee.

Well, now the discussion is about investigation, search, arrest, seizure which has been discussed in chapter 4 of the Formalin Control Act 2015. Basically, in case of an investigation, search, arrest warrant and seizure the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 will be followed. The Government, by general or special order, can empower any Deputy Commissioner or any officer subordinate to him or any police officer for investigation.

The officer authorized by the Government may issue arrest or search warrant in writing if there is sufficient ground to believe that the person has committed any crime or he possesses any documents or articles for committing crime under this Act and the warrant will come to in an effect by the officer in charge of the police station where it has sent to. Furthermore, when any authorized officer has satisfactory proof to consider that there has committed any crime in any place or has possibility to be committed under this Act, therefore, he can enter into that place, investigate and can seize documents and other confiscated things at any time. Likewise, he can search any person and if there are enough grounds to suspect him thus such person can be arrested as well. All these procedures can be followed even in an open place or in any transport.

Subsequently, the arrested person and the seized products shall be transferred to the nearest police station and the officer in charge shall take lawful actions as soon as possible. Now all the confiscated Formalin and equipment like any machinery, materials, package and so on can be seized by the District Magistrate or any UNO as the case may be if there is no object raised. However, if any objection raised then such person will be given reasonable opportunity for hearing before such seizure. After the seizure of such Formalin and equipment, these shall be transferred to the officer authorized by the Government for destruction in a prescribed manner.

In the chapter 5 of the Formalin Control Act 2015, offences and punishments in relation to Formalin have been discussed in section 20-28:

  • Section 20- Importation, production and stock without a license

Punishment:

  • Imprisonment not amount to life sentence
  • Fine not exceeding 20 lac taka but not less than 5 lac taka
  • Section 21 Violation of the conditions of license

Punishment:

  • Imprisonment not exceeding 7 years but not less than 3 years
  • Fine not exceeding 5 lac taka but not less than 2 lac taka
  • Both
  • Section 22- Sale or usage of Formalin without a license

Punishment:

  • Imprisonment not exceeding 2 years but not less than 6 months
  • Fine not exceeding 4 lac taka but not less than 1 lac taka
  • Both
  • Section 23 Transportation or possession of Formalin without a license

Punishment:

  • Imprisonment not exceeding 2 years but not less than 6 months
  • Fine not exceeding 3 lac taka but not less than 1 lac taka
  • Both
  • Section 24 Possession of machinery or any equipment for production of Formalin without license

Punishment:

  • Imprisonment not exceeding 2 years but not less than 6 months
  • Fine not exceeding 2 lac taka but not less than 50 thousand taka
  • Both
  • Section 25 Allowing to use one’s owned or possessed house, land, transport, machinery or any equipment knowingly to commit crime under this Act

Punishment:

  • Imprisonment not exceeding 2 years but not less than 6 months
  • Fine not exceeding 2 lac taka but not less than 50 thousand taka
  • Both
  • Section 26 Filing a false or coerced suit

Punishment:

  • Imprisonment not exceeding 1 year but not less than 3 months
  • Fine not exceeding 2 lac taka but not less than 50 thousand taka
  • Both
  • Section 27 Assistance in committing any offence under this Act

Punishment:

  • Equivalent to the punishment of the convict
  • Section 28 Committing same crime again

Punishment:

  • Double of the committed crime’s highest punishment except the crime specified in section 20

The fine under this Act will be collected from the person or his property and if he dies before the realisation of that money then from his existing property.

If the offence has been committed by a company, therefore, it will be considered that the owner, shareholder, director, manager, secretary or any officer of that company committed that. Moreover, the company can be accused and convicted separately where only fine will be imposed.

Eventually, the point is that who has the jurisdiction to try the offences under this act? The offences under section 20 and 21 will be tried by the Special Tribunal under the Special Powers Act, 1974 and the other offences will be tried by the First Class Magistrate or by the Metropolitan Magistrate as the case may be. In addition, Mobile Court can try the offences except for section 20 and 21 by including the offences in the schedule of the Mobile Court Act 2009.

Hence there are provisions and described punishments accordingly however the execution under this Act is a matter of concern. In spite of having ensured laws, the usage of Formalin in foodstuffs has not been discontinued due to lack taking measures to execute the provisions of the Act.

Jobaira Khan

JOBAIRA NASRIN KHAN Student, School of Law, BRAC University

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