The High Court (HC) yesterday ordered the government to stop the sale and display of eight brands of milk powder found tainted with melamine till receipt of lab test reports from abroad.
The bench of Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain and Justice Quamrul Islam Siddiqui also issued a rule on the authorities concerned to explain within four weeks why their failure to act to stop the sale already should not be declared illegal.
Besides, it wanted to know why they should not be directed to take precautions enough to safeguard children as well as citizens from health hazards posed by toxic milk powder.
The brands in question are Australia's Diploma and Red Cow, Denmark's Dano Full Cream, China's Yashili-1, Yashili-2 and Sweet Baby-2, and New Zealand's Nido Fortified Instant and Anlene.
Recently, tests carried out by the chemistry department of Dhaka University (DU) found that the eight contain toxic melamine.
The court order comes in response to a writ petition filed as public interest litigation by rights watchdog Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB).
Secretaries to the ministries of home, finance, commerce and health, chairmen of National Board of Revenue (NBR) and Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC), director general of Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institution (BSTI) and inspector general of police (IGP) have been made respondents to the rule.
During hearing, petitioners' counsel Manzill Murshid argued that protecting the lives of children is a constitutional obligation of the government.
But the present administration has acted quite irresponsibly by not doing much to stop the sale of melamine-added milk powder.
The petition, filed following news reports on melamine contamination, says the government officials concerned have failed miserably to perform their duties.
The sale continued even after presence of melamine was detected in the powder milk of the popular foreign brands.
Not only that, the government officials have opted to wait for the results of further laboratory tests abroad.
Petitioners said without taking measures to stop the sale of poisoned milk powder, which endangers the lives of children, the respondents have in fact violated human rights.
Assistant Attorney General Abdus Samad Kamal however told the court that the government has taken a number of steps regarding the sale of contaminated milk.
Supreme Court (SC) lawyers Asaduzzaman Siddique, Sarwar Ahad Chowdhury, Moksadul Islam, Forhad Ahmed, Tapan Kanti Das, Mamun Aleem, Aklas Uddin Bhuiyan and Swapan Kumar Das filed the petition on behalf of HRPB.