A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed its reservations to adjudicate technical and scientific subjects like Bt Cotton (GM) crops stating judges were not experts in the field. Justice RV Raveendran spoke for the bench and beseeched the petitioner not to bring such matters before the court for adjudication.
The apex court is hearing a petition claiming that several states in India do not have the required mechanism to monitor trials of GM crops. The petitioner, Aruna Rodriques, also claims that the states were flouting rules framed in 1989 under the Environment Protection Act.
However, the judges said it was not possible for them to decide what mechanism was correct. "We are not experts," said the bench. When it was suggested to them to refer the matter to a committee of experts, the bench replied: "We do not know any experts. If we appoint someone, the government will object to our choice and if they do the same you shall doubt the expertise of the member."
Meanwhile, the government agreed to make public data related to toxicity and allergenicity of Bt Cotton (GM) crops. Additional Solicitor General Amarender Saran told the apex court that the government was willing to share the bulky data related to toxicity and allergenicity of Bt Cotton and he would also hand over a soft copy of it to all the petitioners.
Rodrigues' application stated that states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh are yet to constitute State Biotechnology Coordination Committees (SBCCs) which were necessary for monitoring and inspecting ongoing field trials.
According to the rules, the committees have the powers to inspect, investigate and take punitive action in case of violations of statutory provisions and can periodically review the safety and control measures in the various industries and institutions handling genetically engineered organisms.