Kochi: A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court granted conditional stay of the Puthussery Panchayat's order cancelling the licence granted to Pepsico India Holdings Pvt. Ltd. to run its plant at Wise Park industrial development plot, Kanjikode.
The stay, granted on April 22, is on the condition that on the basis of the stay order the company should not draw ground water for the purpose of running its plant.
The Bench consisting of Justice Cyriac Joseph and Justice K.Padmanabhan Nair said the difficulties faced by the people on account of the non-availability of drinking water deserve more consideration than the difficulties that might be caused to the company due to the temporary closing down of its factory for a few days, if such closure becomes inevitable on account of the direction not to draw water.
The Bench said it found force in the contention of the petitioner-company that the panchayat has no power to unilaterally cancel the licence granted to the company even without any reference to the state single windows clearance board which had cleared the project.
The contention of the company that only the board has power to issue any order revoking any licence deserves serious consideration.
At the same time, the judges said they could not ignore the fact that the panchayat had taken the decision to cancel the licence on the grounds that due to over-exploitation of ground water there was acute scarcity of drinking water in the panchayat area.
Though the company has disputed this fact, the judges said they had no reason to disbelieve or ignore the findings of a statutory body like the grama panchayat that the people of the panchayat are suffering from acute scarcity of ground water due to the exploitation of ground water by the company.
The claim of the panchayat deserves to be appreciated on the background of the government order on February 21, 2004, prohibiting Coca-Cola Beverages Private Ltd. from drawing ground water till the onset of monsoon. Both the companies are situated in adjacent taluks, the court said