News on Adulterated Milk

Alleged adulteration of milk: Cos seek gag on dairy minister

Tuesday, 11/07/2017

CHENNAI: About six weeks after Tamil Nadu dairy development minister Rajenthra Bhalaji kicked up a row saying, quite repeatedly, that private dairy products caused cancer, the Madras high court hoped that the minister would make statements against specific companies and support them with evidence.

An order to this effect was passed by Justice CV Karthikeyan, on a civil suit filed by private dairies Hatsun Agro Product Limited, Dodla Dairy Limited and Vijay Dairy and Farm Products Private Limited on Monday.

The three companies sought Rs 1 crore each as compensation from the minister, saying his statements were "nothing but scurrilous attack, completely unsubstantiated and mostly, totally absurd." They sought an omnibus gag order restraining Balaji from making any statements or remarks or insinuations directly disparaging the companies' milk and milk products manufactured and marketed by them, to the media, both print and visual, including any other mode of mass communication or social media or indirectly by making denigrating and basless accusations of adulteration against private dairies in Tamil Nadu as a whole.

The judge, however, modified the relief portion and said the prayer should state that if there were substantial material to prove adulteration, he should specify the name of the private company which indulged in such adulteration and also produce necessary documents to substantiate his charge.

This would allay the fear among the general public. Damaging the reputation and goodwill of the private manufacturers in general cannot be permitted. This direction would ensure that the minister makes statements which are substantiated and which can also be rebutted by the affected companies, the judge said, adjourning the case to July 28.

In their complaint, the companies said that the minister's baseless statements and accusations have had, and continued to have, a grave impact on the products and credibility of private dairies.

They said, "Rajendra Balaji was sworn in minister on August 30, 2016 and has recently started a media campaign against private dairies. The statements made by him on at least half a dozen occasions since May 24 were published in leading newspapers circulated in Chennai and they affected private dairies and created a sense of disgust and revulsion on milk and milk products manufactured by private dairies as a whole."

Unless the court prevents the minister from causing damage to the companies, by injuncting him from making any such disparaging accusations without any basis, private dairies like the three applicant-companies, would stand to lose heavily, the petitions said.

The statements made by the minister cannot be part of his official duties, since the department of dairy development does not have anything to do with private dairies, they said.


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