News on Adulterated Milk

Ban on transporter accused of milk adulteration upheld
Tuesday, 18/11/2014

CHENNAI: Two months after the Aavin adulteration scam surfaced and prime suspect Vaidyanathan was arrested, the Madras high court has refused to lift a ban on a fleet of milk-carrying tankers operated by his family.

Justice V Ramasubramanian, pointing out that the family enjoyed a near monopoly in milk transportation for Aavin and managed to bag 50% of contracts for tankers, on Monday said blacklisting of the company could not be faulted because the issue concerned adulteration of an essential commodity.

Dismissing two petitions filed by Vaidyanathan's wife V Revathy, who owns the blacklisted Deepika Transports, he said: "She was engaged for transportation of milk, which is an essential commodity and a food item. When the allegation is not merely of short delivery but adulteration, the larger public interest requiring blacklisting of such persons would override the necessity for scrupulous adherence to the principles of natural justice."

On August 19, a sub-inspector of police intercepted a van carrying 45 milk cans at Vellimedupettai in Tiruvannamalai district. Investigation revealed that the milk had been stolen from a tanker carrying milk from a chilling centre to a dairy in Madhavaram. Milk in the tanker was adulterated with water so as to compensate for the theft, it was found. The same officer seized another van carrying 50 empty milk cans.

Soon after the scam surfaced, Aavin terminated the services of some employees and initiated proceedings against Revathy and Vaidyanathan. Their company's contracts were cancelled.

Revathy's counsel V Raghavachari assailed the cancellation of contracts saying the action had been initiated on the basis of confessions of unconnected third parties, and the punishment ought to have been disengagement of the vehicle concerned alone. On the basis of allegation of theft and adulteration made by third parties unconnected with the company with respect to one vehicle, all contracts relating to hundreds of tankers cannot be terminated, he said.

Rejecting the argument, Justice Ramasubramanian faulted Aavin management for failing to take action against the contractor for similar mistakes on at least 20 occasions earlier. "Unfortunately, authorities appear to have adopted a kid glove approach so far and not merely let her (Revathy) off after a mere confiscation, but also renewed the contracts on November 21, 2013, contrary to public interest. This is very unfortunate. Today, authorities had taken a stand that sick persons, children and old persons consume the milk produced by Aavin and that they cannot take any chance when allegations of adulteration are made. But, from the year 2011 up to 2014, more than about 20 orders of confiscation of vehicles had been passed against the contractor. I do not know why the contract was not terminated earlier, and why a renewal of the contract was granted."

The judge rejected the contention that the action had been taken on the basis of one isolated incident, and said it cannot be said that the tanker found carrying adulterated milk alone ought to have been disengaged by Aavin. Pointing out that the contractor failed to make use of the opportunity to explain her stand by refusing to accept registered mails sent by Aavin, Justice Ramasubramanian said, "She almost had a monopoly in the matter of bagging Aavin contracts for more than two decades. She and the other group concerns have successfully surfed through good and bad weather, at times with the help of the administration and at times through court orders. The present action appears to be a culmination of several events of the past."


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