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Kerala High Court Quashes Ban On Coca-Cola, Pepsi

By Karthika Thampan

23 September, 2006

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Friday held that the State Government had no powers to pass orders prohibiting the manufacture and sale of Coca-Cola and Pepsi. The Bench comprising Chief Justice V. K. Bali and Justice M. Ramachandran made the observation while quashing the ban orders passed by the State Government.

Allowing writ petitions filed by Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Limited and PepsiCo India Holdings Private Limited challenging the ban orders, the court held that powers to prohibit the manufacture and sale of products under the provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act were vested with the Union Government. The Bench pointed out that if State legislatures and Parliament had concurrent powers on a matter, the executive power of the State Government was subject to the executive power of the Centre.

Just after the judgement was delivered, employees of coca cola company distributed press notes welcoming the judgement. They also distributed cola to the assembled lawyers and journalists. Advocate Ramakumar who represents the Perumatty Grama Panchayath where the Coca Cola factory is situated alleged that the cola companies had prior knowledge of the judgement. A.Pradeepkumar state secretary of DYFI, youth wing of communist party of India (Marxist) said that large quantities of cola where shipped to Kerala, the night before the judgement was delivered. He also alleged that the cola companies had prior knowledge of the judgement. He said if the court deliver antipeople judgements, his party would make sure that coca cola and pepsi cola are not sold in the state.

Immediately after the judgement was delivered many sales outlets of coca cola and pepsi cola were attacked throughout the state. AIYF, youth wing of Communist party of India (CPI), has announced that they will not allow pepsi produts will not be allowed out of the factory in Kanjikodu, in Palakkadu district. Coca Cola factory in Perumatty is already closed following another court.

The Bench observed that provisions of the Maharashtra Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules gave powers to the Government to prohibit food articles in emergency situation. In the absence of such a rule here, the State Government did not have such powers. Besides, it was not the case of the Government that the level of pesticide residues found in samples tested by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) or the Public Analysts of the Government could have resulted in an epidemic-like situation. The Government had contended only that such level of pesticides would be injurious to health. The judges pointed out that the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) had not prescribed any standard for testing pesticide residues in finished products. The court found that the orders were passed without observing the principle of natural justice such as issuing notice to the companies and hearing them. It also observed that the samples analysed by the CSE, even if its report was to be accepted, would not be adulterated ones. So the State had no powers to ban their manufacture and sale.

The court said that once the Government of India, which had the power to ban such products, did not accept the report it was not fair on the part of the State Government to have continued the prohibition of the products.

The stand of the Government that the ban order would be passed first and the hearing of the petitioners would be made later seemed to be unjustified.

Advocate Ramkumar said the state government has every right to ban a food product that is a threat to the health of the general public. He also pointed out that the joint parliamentary committee headed by the present union minister Sharad Pawar had discovered that the cola products contained pesticides above the permitted level.









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