In a blow to soft drink major Coca-Cola, a division bench of the Kerala high court on Monday declined to stay the government order imposing a four-month ban on its bottling plant at Plachimada in Palakkad district, from extracting groundwater till June 15.
The bench, comprising Justice Cyriac Joseph and Justice K Padmanabhan Nair, held that at this stage, prima facie there was no reason to doubt the government's bonafides when it says that the February 17 order was issued to protect the people's rights to drinking water and tide over the difficult situation caused by drought and non-availability of water for basic human needs.
The difficulties of the people due to non-availability of water deserves more consideration than the difficulties which may be caused to the company due to temporary closing down of its factory for a few days, the bench held.
The bench observed that if it is found that there is substance in the allegation that the petitioner company is subjected to 'hostile' discrimination, the government can in public interest take action against similar factories also, instead of lifting the ban imposed on the petitioner company.
While removing the illegality of 'hostile discrimination,' the court's anxiety should be to minimise the problem and hardships of the people and not to aggravate them, the bench held.
The bench made the observations when a writ petition by the Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Ltd challenging the government order came up before the court.
The judges also directed the state government to file a counter affidavit within 10 days on the petition.
The case has been posted to March 22.