Kerala High Court Directs State Government To Ensure Packaged Drinking Water, Ice Bars Meet Standards Prescribed Under Law

Among other reliefs, the petitioner sought a ban on ‘unhealthy juice’ kulukki sarbath.

Update: 2021-04-14 12:25 GMT

Early in March, the Kerala High Court closed Public Interest Litigation from 2014, which alleged the existence of unauthorised packaged drinking water units that bottled water and distributed ice bars without the required quality markers or licences. Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly constituted the Bench that disposed the...

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Early in March, the Kerala High Court closed Public Interest Litigation from 2014, which alleged the existence of unauthorised packaged drinking water units that bottled water and distributed ice bars without the required quality markers or licences.

Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly constituted the Bench that disposed the petition.

The Court directed the State Government to ensure that manufacturing units operated in line with statutory prescriptions. The Bench additionally urged the concerned statutory bodies to undertake periodical inspections to ensure units functioned after receiving the required consent/permit/licence.

"Therefore, the writ petition is disposed of directing the respondents to ensure that unauthorised drinking water units are not functioning in the State and that the packaged drinking water units are functioning with licences and other permits and undertaking all precautions in accordance with law so as to meet up with the standards prescribed under law. The State Government shall also ensure that the low quality ice is not distributed by any of the manufacturing units so as to affect the public health."

The petitioner, Human Rights Mission, stating that the operation of these units harmed health as well as the ecology, primarily prayed that licences of these water units be verified and that the operation of those operating without license be stopped. Only those units that obtained an ISI mark and number should be allowed a licence, the petitioner additionally prayed.

Apart from these, another relief sought by the petitioner was a ban on the sale of kulukki sarbath, a popular beverage available across the state.

The petitioner stated that unauthorised water units distribute low quality ice bars which are used by wayside shopkeepers for making 'kulukki sarbath', which may cause serious diseases to human beings in future. Terming the beverage an 'unhealthy juice', the petitioner prayed for a direction prohibiting the sale of the drink.

In Court, the State Government brought on record steps taken by the Government along with the Food Safety and Standards Act to ensure that the illegal functioning of packaged drinking water units.

"The Bureau of Indian Standards, namely the 6th respondent, has clearly stated that it was making enquiries and taking steps against those industries which are not functioning in the field in question without securing the ISI marks and those units which are using the ISI marks unauthorisedly", the court pointed out.

Based on the submissions, the Court observed that steps were taken to prevent the illegal functioning of packaged drinking water unit. It would be appropriate to dispose of the petition with suitable directions especially since the reliefs sought were general in nature, the Court added.

In addition to instructing the statutory authorities to undertake inspections and ensure packaged drinking water units were not functioning without authorisation, the Court said,

"It is also directed that while granting licence to any new packaged drinking water units, necessary directions shall be issued to maintain the standards prescribed under the respective statutes and to ensure that such units starts functioning only after securing permits/clearances/consents from the respective statutory authorities"

On these terms, the petition was disposed.

CASE NAME: Human Rights Mission v. Director, Kerala State Ground Water Department

COUNSEL: Advocate D Mini Rajan for the petitioner, Senior Government Pleader Surin George Ipe for the State Respondents, Standing Counsel Manoj Ramaswamy for the Bureau of Indian Standards, and Advocate TG Rajendran for Kairali Aqua, one of the respondent packaged water companies impleaded to the proceedings.

Click here to download the judgment


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