The Destructive Insect and Pest Act was enforced to protect crops from being exposed to insects, fungi and pests that could destroy the crops. The Act aims to prevent the “introduction” of destructive insects into India. The Act seeks to prevent the transmission of insects and harmful pests from one province to another province.
Pesticides protect crops from infections. India is one of the top producers of pesticides in the world, with a significant number of large-scale and medium-scale pesticide makers, including multinational conglomerates. India is the fourth largest producer of agrochemicals after the USA, Japan and China. There are several insecticide manufacturers spread around the country. Apart from this, the prevention of infections also has legal backing, which allows the government to take necessary measures to prevent or stop infection from spreading.
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The Destructive Insects And Pests Act, 1914
The Act came into force on 3 February 1914 after the Governor-General gave his consent. The Central Government has amended the Act to keep it current until June 1976. Several provisions grant the Central Government power to make rules on relevant matters.
Regulation Or Prohibition on the Import of Articles Likely to Infect Crops
The Central Government can prevent or regulate the import of any article or specific articles or insects into India or any province in India if there is a risk of infection.
The government notifies about the prohibition or regulation in the Official Gazette. It can impose any conditions on the imports of articles or insects. The notification can include specifications about the restricted articles or insects. It also mentions relevant details like their country of origin and restrictions on their import.
The government can impose fees and collect them for several relevant activities under the Act. These activities include fumigation, supervision of the imports under the Destructive Insects and Pests Act, inspections and more. The central government specifies the rates and the collection method in the notification.
Operation Of Notification Under Section 3
A notification under section 3 of the Act functions like a notification issued under the Customs Act 1878. Therefore, the Customs Officers at the Indian Ports have powers over restricted articles or insects as they have over the articles whose import is restricted, controlled or prohibited under the Sea Customs Act. The relevant provisions of the Sea Customs Act or other applicable laws apply to importing the articles under the Destructive Insect and Pest Act.
Central Government Power to Regulate or Prohibit Transport or Export
The central government can prohibit or regulate specific articles or insects that could cause infection to a crop about the following:-
- Their exportation from a State or
- Their transportation from one State to another.
The government must notify the above prohibition or regulation in the Official Gazette, and it can also impose necessary conditions to control the export or transfer.
Refusal to Carry Articles of Which Transport is Prohibited
If the government issues notification under section 4A of the Act, irrespective of other laws in force at that time:
- Prohibiting export or transport of certain articles or insects: The person in charge of booking goods or parcels at inland steam vessel stations or railway stations should not receive or send a carriage of anything to another state if that thing is restricted from being imported or transported.
- Imposing conditions on the export or transport of certain articles or insects: The person in charge of booking goods or parcels at inland steam vessel stations or railway stations should not deal with the shipment until the person sending the goods (consignor) produces relevant documents to show that they meet the conditions imposed.
Central Government Power to Make Rules
The central government can make rules as to the following:
- The required documents for transferring or exporting articles or insects when it imposes conditions under section 4A of the Act.
- Who has the power to issue the above documents;
- How to use the documents.
The rules should be put before the Houses of Parliament in session. The parliament can review the rules for thirty days in one session or more.
The Houses can modify or decide not to implement a rule during the thirty days. The rules come into effect after modification, or they do not take effect at all.
The review process only impacts things done under the rules before their modification or annulment.
State Government Power To Make Rules
The state government can make rules for inspecting, disinfecting, or destroying any infectious or destructive insects or class of insects or articles regarding which the central government issued a notification under section 3 or section 4A of the Destructive Insects And Pests Act, 1914.
It can appoint officials to perform relevant functions and grant required powers and duties.
- An individual who intentionally exports or transfers or tries to export or transfer articles or insects and violates a notification issued under section 4A\;
- An individual in charge of booking goods or parcels at an inland steam vessel station or a railway station intentionally violates a notification under section 4B;
It can be punished with a fine of Rs. 250, which could increase to Rs. 1000 in case of subsequent conviction.
Protection to Persons Acting Under Act
Individuals who do or intend to do something in good faith are protected from legal consequences. Therefore, such individuals are immunised from prosecution or a suit according to section 6 of the Act.
The Destructive Insects and Pests (Amendment and Validation) Act of 1992
The Destructive Insects and Pests (Amendment and Validation) Act came into force on 27 October 1989.
Irrespective of any law in force, the following are considered valid under the amended Act:
Any amount imposed or collected to make an application to permit the import or inspect, fumigate, disinfect, disinfest, or supervise any article or a class of articles of insects under the Destructive Insects and Pests Act of 1914:
- An individual cannot initiate legal proceedings to refund the collected amount.
- Any amount due to be received as a fee can be collected under the Destructive Insects and Pests Act;
- Any action taken under the Destructive Insects and Pests Act is valid with retrospective effect.
The above validity does not bar an individual from following actions:
- an individual can challenge the imposition or collection of fee under the principal Act or notifications;
- Individuals can claim a refund if they paid more than the due amount under the main Act or the relevant notification.
The Act could be considered historic due to the awareness with which the Central Government enacted it in the early 1900s. It allowed an extra layer of protection from the government to the farmers and other stakeholders.
While the Act has a straightforward objective, implementing it would be complex due to the provisions’ vagueness, allowing the Central Government to make necessary rules to regulate infection. Although the Act has penal provisions, they are not at par with today’s society.
Despite this, the lack of a complex procedure in the Act allows the government to take quick actions against infections and stop them from spreading. Thus, the Destructive Insect and Pest Act 1914 was a turning point for the agricultural landscape in India as it addressed the need to regulate and respond to infections that could destroy crops.
FAQs on the Destructive Insects and Pests Act, 1914
What is the scope of the Destructive Insects and Pests Act 1914?
The Act applies to the whole of Indian territory. Before 1956, the Act did not apply in Jammu and Kashmir.
Which crops are protected under the Destructive Insects and Pests Act 1914?
The Destructive Insects and Pests Act 1914 covers all the "agricultural and horticultural crops, " including plants, bushes, and trees.
What is an infection under the Destructive Insects and Pests Act 1914?
Infection, as defined under section 2(c) of the Act, is an infection due to a fungus, insect or pest that injures a crop.
What is the penalty for not complying with the notifications under the Act?
An offending individual is fined up to Rs.250, which could increase to Rs. 1000 in case of subsequent conviction.
How does the Government control infection under the Act?
The Central government can prohibit or restrict the transport or export of infectious articles or insects. The state government can take necessary steps like disinfection, disinfestation and destruction of infectious articles or insects.