Court Rules Pepsico can Function in Kanjikode
February 12 2008

PALAKKAD: The Supreme Court ruling that the Pepsi Cola factory can function in Kanjikode and that the Pudussery panchayat has no powers to cancel the licence was on expected lines.

It was the Nayanar-led LDF Government which had invited both the soft drink majors, Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Limited and Pepsi Cola Limited to invest in Kerala.

Both the soft drink majors had invested more than Rs 100 crore to set up the two factories when they were accused of overexploitation of groundwater.

Unlike the Coke unit in Plaachimada which was lying closed, the Pepsi unit was located in an industrial area.

However in the Pepsi case, the arguments of the Pudussery panchayat would not stand legal scrutiny was evident from day one. Pepsi had always maintained that their factory was set up in an industrial area and they had been accorded sanction to operate under the single window clearance scheme of the Industries Department.

Therefore the panchayat had no right to cancel their licence. In the first place, there was a host of industries in the Kanjikode industrial belt, which was exploiting groundwater for industrial purposes.

The groundwater department here had already brought out a data list of the daily consumption of water by all the industries in the district.

Morever, the Pepsi Cola factory itself was surrounded by more than half a dozen beer factories which were also consuming groundwater in no small measure.

Therefore, it was only to be expected that one factory cannot be discriminated against the other by the courts.

Perhaps, it was this realisation that made the CPM ruled Pudussery panchayat to go slow initially on cancelling the licence of the Pepsi factory. But the Janata Dal (S) ruled Perumatty panchayat by cancelling the licence of the Coke factory in Plaachimada kept on sniping at the CPM that it was not sincere and urged it to cancel the licence.

Moreover, the CPI began conducting marches to the Pepsi factory demanding that the Pudussery panchayat must cancel the licence. Finally, the Pudussery panchayat decided to play to the galleries and cancelled the licence of the Pepsi factory.

The Kerala High Court had ruled that the panchayat had no powers to cancel the licence, since it was an industrial area and now the Supreme court has also followed suit.

Pudussery grama panchayat president Suresh told Express that he would comment only after getting the copy of the verdict. He said that the panchayat would request the Government to consult legal luminaries and make the next move.

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