The single judge had said that the state lacks jurisdiction to declare packaged drinking water as an essential article and that its order fixing the price of bottled water was "legally unsustainable".

Kerala High CourtFile photo/hckerala.gov.in
news Court Friday, January 07, 2022 - 09:00

Bottled drinking water was declared as an essential article and its cost was fixed at Rs 13 per litre to ensure its availability, at a fair price, and its equitable distribution in the state, the LDF government told the Kerala High Court. The submission was made by the state government in its appeal against a single judge's interim order putting on hold its decisions to declare bottled water as an essential item and fixing its price.

The single judge's December 15, 2021 order had come on a batch of three petitions filed challenging a 2019 notification which declared bottled water as an essential item and the subsequent 2020 decision fixing the cap of Rs 13 per litre on packaged drinking water.

The High Court on Thursday, January 6 asked the state whether it wants to pursue its appeal against the interim order or go back to the single judge for a final disposal of the pleas challenging the 2019 notification and 2020 price fixation, a lawyer associated with the matter said.

Advocate Joy Thattil Ittoop, representing the Kerala Bottled Water Manufacturers Association, said that the High Court posed the query to the government pleader appearing for the state and listed the matter for hearing on January 11.

The state government, in its appeal, has said, "In order to ensure the availability of the bottled drinking water, at a fair price and for securing its equitable distribution within the state of Kerala, especially in the summer season and during the Sabarimala season, it was decided to declare it, as an essential article under the Kerala Essential Articles Control Act."

The single judge had said that the state lacks jurisdiction or power to declare packaged drinking water as an essential article and therefore, its order fixing the price of bottled water at Rs 13 per litre was "legally unsustainable".

The single judge had further said that the state government "lacks jurisdiction in declaring packaged drinking water as an essential article under the Kerala Essential Articles Control Act,1986 in the light of the Food Safety Act 2006".

Seeking setting aside of the interim order, the state government in its appeal has said that the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 does not regulate the price of the packaged drinking water and it only fixes the standards of the food articles.

"Hence, there is no express bar in the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 over the state government to fix the price of drinking water," the petition has said.

While putting on hold the state government's notification and price fixation order, the single judge had directed it to come up with a proposal to regulate the cost of bottled water in the state, as it was being sold at different rates across Kerala, in consultation with the Union government.

It had also directed the Union government to file an affidavit on how the price of packaged drinking water can be regulated. The 2019 notification had come pursuant to a representation moved by the Kerala Bottled Water Manufacturing Association before the state government for taking measures to control the selling price of bottled drinking water.

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