Coke withdraws petition
Faced with Supreme Court's refusal to entertain its plea, the Indian subsidiary of multinational Coca-Cola on Wednesday withdrew its petition seeking testing of its product by experts in the wake of allegations that most soft drinks had high pesticide content.
A Bench comprising Justice S Rajendra Babu, Justice AR Lakshmanan and Justice GP Mathur asked petitioner Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd as to which of its rights was affected and wondered as to why some set of soft drink manufacturers moved the Delhi High Court while others came directly to the Supreme Court.
Before dismissing the petition as withdrawn, the Bench refused to be drawn into repeated plea of the petitioner's counsel Kapil Sibal to convert the petition into a public interest litigation to protect the rights of the consumer.
Sibal said municipalities in West Bengal, Punjab and Rajasthan had initiated the process for banning the sale of Coca-Cola on the basis of the results of tests conducted by the NGO, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), which could not be taken to be the one done by experts.
The Bench, at this point, observed "Can one not say that he does not want to drink soft drinks? You approach whichever forum you think appropriate to enforce your right, but we will not entertain this petition."
The other soft drink major Pepsi had approached the Delhi High Court on Friday demanding independent evaluation of CSE's "damaging" report holding that the CSE lab had no accreditation and the methods and process adopted in preparing the report were "suspect".
Sibal requested the Court that till the Expert Committee set up by the Union Government tested the soft drinks for pesticide content in a well-equipped laboratory, the sale of the soft drinks should not be stopped arbitrarily.
Explaining the grave danger posed to the soft drink manufacturers in the wake of the CSE report, the counsel said schools, government bodies and other organisations have started refusing to take stocks of the soft drinks.
The Bench refused to be persuaded by the company's plea and repeatedly said "we will not interfere in the matter."
"If the Supreme Court will not entertain the matter, where else could the manufacturers go at a time when State after State were being closing its doors on the products of the company," Sibal pleaded.
The Bench said "you (the company) run business all over the country and you can move appropriate forums there."
Faced with this poser, Sibal said it was not the question of the right of the manufacturers but was only requesting the Court to help the confused consumer by ordering a test by a competent laboratory through independent experts.
Meeting the same response time and again, the company withdrew its petition from the Supreme Court.
Close on the heels of a major health scare on finding pesticides in bottled drinking water, an NGO on Wednesday claimed that the bottled soft drinks owned by two MNCs -- PepsiCo and Coke -- also failed the same health standards testing positive for pesticides.
"12 major cold drink brands sold in Delhi and around contain a deadly cocktail of pesticide residues," CSE said on August six making public its laboratory tests.