The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notices to Coca-Cola and Pepsico following a suo motu application filed by the amicus curae Harish Salve in the forests case. The application was triggered off by a report in the Sunday edition of The Indian Express, ‘Rape of the Rock’. The report deals with the damage the cola companies were causing to the environment by painting their advertisements on the rocks on the Manali-Rohtang Pass.
A three-judge bench of the apex court comprising Chief Justice of India BN Kirpal, Justice KG Balakrishnan and Justice Arijit Passayat issued notices on why exemplary damages should not be asked to be paid by these companies.
The two companies will have to appear on the next date of hearing. Anywhere else in the world, “...damaging invaluable fragile, geological formations” is a punishable crime, said the newspaper report.
Salve requested the court to direct the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (Neeri) to inspect the stretch of road between Manali and Rohtang particularly from the point of view of examining the damage caused to the ecology by advertisements and similar activities carried out in that area.
Salve also requested the court to direct the Himachal Pradesh government to stop painting on the rocks or any other affixation of advertisements in the eco-sensitive Manali-Rohtang area.
The amicus curiae submitted that the Himalayas were the highest mountains in the world having certain rock surfaces dating back to 45 million years and stressed that as it was a eco-fragile zone, there was an urgent need to keep it free from all kinds of pollution.
He said from village Kothi to Rallah waterfalls to Beas Kund, a stretch of about 56 km, advertisements have been plastered on the entire mountain side.
Terming plastering of the rock faces with advertisements as a non-forest activity, Salve said as the entire land in question belonged to the state’s forest department and was governed by the Indian Forest Act and the Forest Conservation Act, such activities could not be carried out without prior permission of the Union Government.