In a bid to keep the price of bottled water under check at Sabarimala, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Thursday directed the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) to cancel the contracts of the vendors or shopkeepers who refused to sell bottled water at the rate fixed by the board.

The Bench of Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice A.V. Ramakrishna Pillai issued the directive in suo motu proceedings initiated on the basis of a report by the Sabarimala Special Commissioner.

The report said that shopkeepers and vendors were charging higher prices for bottled water at Sabarimala, the Sannidhanam, Pampa, and Nilackal.

The TDB submitted that complaints about exorbitant prices were true. The Bench directed Magistrates, Revenue Divisional Officers, and the Special Commissioner to book those who charged higher prices for bottled water. The court was of the opinion that shops selling bottled drinking water at exorbitant rates should be closed and sealed and their contracts terminated.

The court ordered that no money be released to them while terminating the contracts.

The Bench asked the TDB to blacklist shops that sold bottled water at higher prices. The court hoped that all departments, Police, Food Safety, and Legal Metrology, would work hand-in-hand to curb the exploitation.

The court recorded the suggestion made by the TDB to set up its own shops for selling drinking water. It appreciated the TDB’s decision to provide biscuits and drinking water on its own to those who stood in long queues for having darshan.

The court asked the police to be vigilant and ordered that their strength be augmented whenever any need arose for managing the crowds at Sabarimala.