CBI to lay chargesheet against BIS scientists soon

Analysis of samples taken from a handful of packaged drinking water units in and around Chennai has confirmed that they were contaminated and unfit for human consumption, sources in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said on Sunday.

In March this year, the CBI conducted surprise checks on dozens of packaged drinking water units and found gross deviation in basic safety parameters.

Investigation revealed that a couple of senior Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) scientists had colluded with the packaged water manufacturers and granted licence, ignoring safety violations.

For instance, a few units which did not even have Reverse Osmosis plants were given licence to operate. Many others had neither a laboratory nor a microbiologist, both of which were mandatory requirements.

“We suspect that tap water was either bottled or packed in polythene covers and sold as packaged drinking water at bus stands, bars and other places,” a CBI official said.

Investigators accompanied by scientists from the vigilance wing of BIS, New Delhi, conducted the checks and took samples for further investigation.

“When analysed at the BIS laboratory in Chennai, the water samples did not conform to the prescribed standards set by BIS. They were found to be contaminated and unfit for human consumption,” he said.

A clear case of nexus was established between BIS officials and packaged water manufacturers.

Investigation was nearing completion and the agency would soon lay chargesheet in the case. “Besides G. Venkatnarayan (Scientist-E) and P.N. Murali (Scientist-D), who were arrested, the CBI will implicate those BIS personnel who were responsible to inspect the units before and after granting licence,” the official added.

The National Green Tribunal, Southern Bench, had taken suo motu cognisance of a news item published in The Hindu exposing violation of safety norms in packaged drinking water units, and issued notices to the Chennai Corporation Commissioner, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and Secretary, Environment and Forests to file their response. The case is under trial.