Madras HC rejects plea to stop Tamirabarani water supply to soft drink units

No proof to suggest supply affects agriculture, says court.

Updated - March 03, 2017 12:13 pm IST

Published - March 02, 2017 10:55 am IST - MADURAI

A view of the Tamirabarani river.
Photo: N. Rajesh

A view of the Tamirabarani river. Photo: N. Rajesh

The Madras High Court Bench here on Thursday dismissed a couple of public interest litigation (PIL) petitions filed against the supply of THE Tamirabarani river water by the Small Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT) to the industries set up by the co-packers of PepsiCo and Coca-Cola at the Industrial Growth Centre (IGC) at Gangaikondan in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu.

Justices A. Selvam and P. Kalaiyarasan dismissed the petitions on several grounds, including the State government’s submission that only 43 mcft out of 5,049 mcft of surface water that goes waste into the sea was being supplied to the two industries.

The court was told that such supply did not affect either irrigation or drinking water needs of the people in any way.

The judges, however, pointed out that the PIL petitioners had failed to submit any scientific proof or material to show that water supply to the two industries would adversely affect either agriculture or drinking water requirement.

They said the litigants had chosen to file the cases against the two industries alone, though others in the IGC were drawing much more water.

“Why are you not attacking other industries? Why have you adopted a pick and choose method?”

‘SIPCOT can stop supply if there is water scarcity’

While dismissing the petitions, the court said, “The allegations made by the petitioners do not show any lamentable state of affairs. Further, there is absolutely no hindrance in utilising the river water by the common people and there is no deviation of doctrine of public trust.”

It pointed out that SIPCOT also held the right to stop supply to the industries if there was scarcity of water in the locality.

The judges took note of the fact that the very purpose of establishing the IGC was to generate employment and improve the economy of the State. “Industries have to co-exist to maintain a balance. Sustainable development is the order of the day,” they said and recorded the submission of the two industries that they had provided employment to hundreds of workers.

‘Ulterior motive’

The Bench also held that that D.A. Prabakar, one of the two PIL petitioners, had filed the case with an ulterior motive. He filed the petition without disclosing the fact that he was once a lawyer for the co-packer of Coca-Cola and began initiating various litigations against the company after his services were dispensed with due to his “unethical practices.”

Authoring the judgment, Mr. Justice Kalaiyarasan pointed out that a Government Order was passed on May 14, 1998, permitting the SIPCOT’s predecessor Tamil Nadu Corporation for Industrial Infrastructure Development (TACID) to draw 3 million gallons a day (MGD) from the Tamirabarani and supply it to industries established in the IGC spread over 1,991.58 acres.

The permission was granted with the approval of Water Utilisation Committee. However, at present, the SIPCOT was drawing only 0.5 MGD of water from the Tamirabarani and supplying it to industries in the IGC.

Though 940.45 acres were allotted so far to 62 industries, just 27 of them were functioning, with the others remaining in various stages of being established.

In the judgement, Justices A. Selvam and P. Kalaiyarasan expressed their anguish over the government not having taken any steps in the last 70 years to avoid surplus outflow of the Tamirabarani water into the sea.

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