Legal Correspondent

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday rapped the Centre for the delay in notifying the Food Safety and Standards Act and making it mandatory for soft drink companies to display the contents of their products on bottles for the information of consumers.

A Bench, comprising Justices C.K. Thakker and Dalveer Bhandari, was hearing a petition filed by the Centre for Public Litigation, alleging that soft drinks sold in the country contained highly toxic, acidic and addictive ingredients dangerous for human consumption in the present form.

Bill passed by Parliament

Appearing for the petitioner, counsel Prashant Bhushan submitted that the Food Safety and Standards Bill had been passed by Parliament and given Presidential assent also, but the government was not notifying it for implementation. He alleged that the government was deliberately dragging its feet under pressure from the soft drinks majors.

Senior counsel Harish Salve and K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the soft drinks majors, alleged that a political battle was being launched against the cola companies by vested interests.

When the Bench wanted to know from Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran why the government was not implementing the Act, he said the expert committee was expected to submit its report in October, and sought adjournment.

The Bench sought to know whether or not the chemicals used in these drinks were injurious to health and why the government was not admitting it. It asked why the entire exercise was being conducted by the government in secrecy, and said it was deliberately wasting time in holding meetings with the high-power committee.

The Bench adjourned the hearing to November after it was pointed out that the expert committee would submit its report by then.