SC summons CEOs of mineral water companies on Sunday

SC summons CEOs of mineral water companies on Sunday

LAHORE: The Supreme Court (SC) Saturday summoned chief executive officers (CEOs) of all the major mineral

water companies on Sunday (Sept 16) in a suo motu notice regarding alleged exploitation of groundwater resources without any charges and its fitness for human consumption.

The court also sought reports from the CEOs regarding tariff paid and the money earned by the companies during the past five years.

The bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar and Justice Ijazul Ahsan passed the order while hearing the matter at the Supreme Court Lahore Registry.

At the outset of the proceedings, a law officer on behalf of the Federal Government submitted a report regarding mineral water companies, operating in the country.

He informed the court that 82 such units were operating in Karachi, 16 in Sukkur, 15 in Hyderabad, 12 in Islamabad and eight in Lahore. He also explained their methods for extracting groundwater.

The CJP observed that the court was concerned whether the tariff / charges were being paid for it or not. Whether the water sold in the market had minerals or not, he added.

"Now the bottled water is being used in every home and it is our duty to ensure compliance of fundamental rights," he added.

Aitzaz Ahsan, representing Nestle Pakistan, submitted that charges were being paid for extracting the groundwater.

To which, the Managing Director of Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) submitted that the present tariff was 0.2 paisa per litre whereas the WASA governing body had recommended to enhance the tariff to 0.75 paisa per litre.

At this, Aitzaz Ahsan submitted that the groundwater was property of the land owner, as per a Supreme Court judgement.

However, the CJP noted that the permission was limited to extent of personal use, and not for commercial purposes. New decisions could also be made, he observed.

The chief justice further remarked that mineral water companies should sit with the government and decide an appropriate rate for extracting water. The companies would not be allowed to increase the price of water, Justice Ijaz observed.

The chief justice remarked that water had become more expensive than gold now. People had developed the habit of drinking mineral water and money was being made through the use of natural resource. "We will not allow theft of water under any circumstances," he added.

Subsequently, the bench summoned the CEOs of all the major mineral water companies - including Nestle, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Gourmet - to appear before it at 11am on Sunday.

During the proceedings, the CJP hinted that Article 6 of the Constitution could possibly be used against those who would try to impede the construction of dams in future. He had started reviewing Article 6, he added.