Citing quality concerns over Indian Railways’ standard packaged drinking water Rail Neer, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) Wednesday argued in Bombay High Court that the system of monopoly has taken away the fundamental right of the consumer to choose what he wants to drink.
The PIL by Lopesh Vora, a commuter, was heard by Justices Naresh Patil and M S Sonak. His lawyer Rui Rodrigues sought a direction to the Railways and its subsidiary, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC, to provide packaged drinking water of other brands also.
The lawyer argued that it those traveling on train were not merely passengers but consumers as well. “They have the right to drink the packaged drinking water of their choice,” said Rodrigues.
It was argued that Rail Neer was only available in one litre bottles and not 500 ml making it inconvenient for passengers. Laboratory tests in Gujarat, asserted Rodrigues, had shown that the water was “sub standard” and “did not conform” to Food Safety and Standards Authority of India norms.
“There are also traces of Mercury in Rail Neer and the consumer is made to buy only this water,” argued Rodrigues.
The lawyer appearing for the IRCTC argued that the authority was not preventing anyone from carrying their own water.
Quality cannot be compromised, said the HC while directing the IRCTC to file their say within four weeks.
Meanwhile, another bench of the high court in November last, upheld a circular issued by Indian Railways directing contractors and caterers having stalls on platforms and railway stations to stock and sell only Rail Neer.
While dismissing the IRCTC petition, the court opined that the right of petitioners — the Indian Railways Caterers’ Association — to deal with and carry on business with railways in no way was going to be affected.