KERALA

Order on Coke's petition reserved

KOCHI, MARCH 3. Even as a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court reserved its order on a petition filed by Coca Cola company seeking to stay the Government order prohibiting the company from drawing groundwater, the Bench directed the Government to file an affidavit by tomorrow clarifying whether the ban order was applicable to drawing water from open wells.

The Bench comprising Justice Cyriac Joseph and Justice K. Padmanabhan Nair reserved the order after hearing the counsel for the company, Perumatty Grama Panchayat, the Coca-Cola company association, and the Government.

In a statement filed before the court, the Government said that it had prohibited the Coca-Cola company from drawing groundwater because the Chittur taluk had been badly affected by scarcity of drinking water.

In fact, in the last 15 years, it was this year that the district had received very poor rainfall and the water scarcity was not very severe in other parts of the district, compared to the Chittur taluk.

The District Collector had written to the Government about the scarcity of water and by a proceeding initiated on December 12 last, the Commissioner of Land Revenue had decided to declare Palakkad as drought-affected district with effect from December 15 last.

Even a Cabinet sub-committee headed by the Minister for Agriculture, K.R. Gouri, had visited the place affected by the drought and held discussions with the representatives of the public. In view of the alarming drought situation, the Cabinet met on February 17 and directed the company not to draw groundwater until the onset of the Southwest monsoon.

The directive was issued in public interest and to see that the acute scarcity of water in the area would be mitigated. In fact, the other factories/industries were located in the industrial area at Kanjikode where the water scarcity was not as acute as in the Chittur taluk.

Besides, the water used by hotels, resorts, plantations and other commercial and agricultural ventures could not be compared with the quantity of the water drawn by the company.

Bottled water

The Court asked the producers of packaged drinking water to conform to the BIS standard.Justice C.N. Ramachandran Nair held that the packaged drinking water should conform to the standard prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) as contemplated under the Food Adulteration Rules. The Judge made the observation while disposing of a writ petition filed by the Aqua Fresh, a Kochi-based packaged drinking water manufacturer, against the action taken by the Kochi Corporation under the Food Adulteration Rules.