LAHORE: Hearing a suo motu case about extraction of groundwater by bottled water companies, the Supreme Court on Saturday asked the Nestle’s chief executive officer (CEO) to remain present in the court building until the company’s audit was carried out there.
A two-member bench, led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, was hearing the case at the Supreme Court’s Lahore registry. It also issued notices to the federal and all provincial governments to submit their replies regarding the case.
The CJP directed the SC registrar to allot rooms in the building for forensic audit of Nestle, the CEO and other officers of which should only be allowed to use the restroom during the audit. They would remain present from the start till completion of the audit.
On the directive of the court, Nestle produced 81 samples of its product before the court.
The CJP observed that the court had directed the company to submit documents of the record but it had presented unwanted boxes.
The court also asked Nestle’s legal adviser Aitzaz Ahsan why he had raised objections to the forensic audit which was earlier directed by the court, saying now the audit would be carried out in the SC building and the CEO would be present until its completion.
CJP Nisar said if the court was not giving a reasonable order, Mr Ahsan could issue a statement on TV as earlier the court had stopped him from issuing a statement related to the case on TV. Advocate Zafar Iqbal Kalanauri, amicus curiae, said Nestle had illegally sold water worth billions of rupees and also paid tax from the pocket of the taxpayers.
The CJP observed that Nestle was paying a meagre amount of tax and utilising groundwater worth billions of rupees.
Punjab Food Authority (PFA) Director General Muhammad Usman submitted a report which said that Nestle water was drinkable but the ingredients were not according to its label. PFA counsel Mian Iftikhar said Nestle water was not registered.
The CJP said the company had installed a turbine in Sheikhupura to fill water. He directed the company to submit a report about minerals included in the water and from where these mineral were being imported. He said the companies’ two paisa per litre tax should be increased to 50 paisa or one rupee.
CJP Nisar said he would visit the Nestle factory at Port Qasim to check from where it was getting water. He directed the accountant general of Punjab to constitute a team for forensic audit and submit its report to the court till the next hearing on Thursday.
Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2018