Press on Environment and Wildlife
Former judge challenges High Court judgement on the coca-cola case (Issue of the week, June Week 1 (2005))

This article appeared in The Hindu, 4th June, regarding the judgment passed by a Division Bench of the Kerela Hight Court in Kochi, on a case where the president of the Perumatty panchayat had refused to renew the liicence granted earlier to the Coca-Cola company's plant at Plachimada in Palakkad district on the grounds of excessive ground water exploitation by the company. This article challenges the judgment which has been in the favour of the company and raises important questions regarding not only the integrity of the judicial system but also the insensitivity of major industries of the country towards environmental and social issues. Following is an excerpt from the article:

The former Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, has observed that "`Coca-Cola' as law has made an imbroglio of our writ jurisdiction and jurisprudence." On Wednesday, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court in Kochi directed the president of the Perumatty panchayat to renew in a week the licence granted earlier to the Coca-Cola company's plant at Plachimada in Palakkad district. In a statement, the eminent jurist said: "I have great respect for the judiciary, of which I have been a member both in Kerala and in the apex court. But non-criticism of judicial pronouncements when one considers them as aberrational is a failure of a jurist's duty to the Constitution and the non-exercise of the fundamental right of freedom of expression. We are governed by the Constitution, but it has been said that the Constitution is what the judges say it is. This does not mean that the `robed brethren' can reduce the law to mere judicial ipse dixits. I suspect the wisdom and constitutionality of the Coca-Cola judgment recently pronounced by a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court. Maybe I am wrong, or maybe the concerned judges are in error. When licence has been refused for Coca-Cola by a local authority, which is necessary under municipal law, the court cannot hold that, in certain circumstances, the licence may be deemed to have been granted, thus nullifying the statute. I have not had the time to investigate dialectically the many dimensions of this pronouncement. I must also confess that I have not fully investigated how, in the face of an earlier decision, a fresh case was instituted before a different bench. This calls for a closer study of the procedure adopted and the substantive law declared. In short, `Coca-Cola' as law has made an imbroglio of our writ jurisdiction and jurisprudence.

Animals at the Delhi zoo unable to bring forth offspring (June Week 1 (2005)) Ruby and Rustam, a chimpanzee pair, have lived together for over 10 years in Delhi 's National Zoological Park (NZP) and still after years of co habiting and crossing, they have not been able to breed. As a last ditch attempt, the zoo administration brought Anita in Rustam's life from Chandigarh . Yet breeding has not been possible. And that is not all, for over seven years, the zoo administration has been waiting for two bonteng females and one male to breed but the wait has proved endless. An Indian elephant pair, Heera and Rajlaxmi, too have not bred. The zoo has provided physiological disorders as an explanation for the inability of animals to produce offspring. However, what needs to be investigated are the causes underlying these physiological disorders as well as those which directly affect conception and need to be investigated. In addition, the zoo has a number of denizens for which the administration has not been able to find out suitable companions for years. For over six years, a female hoolock gibbon has been waiting for her mate. So are a female Indian wolf, a small male Indian civet, and an Assamese monkey. This goes to show the inefficiency of the Delhi zoo to live up to one of the main functions of a good zoo – to set up captive colonies to supplement the endangered wild populations.
Children work to save the tigers (June Week 1 (2005)) So impressed were the World Wide Fund for Nature (India) and the Corbett Foundation with the concern and work of Indian children to save the tiger that they donated Rs 1 Lakh each to help the endangered species. The children who are a part of the Kids for Tigers programme- a nationwide mobilization of children concerned about the fate of the tiger initiated by Sanctuary Asia, a wildlife magazine – have been making posters and selling paintings and lemonade to raise money to buy equipment for forest guards to protect the tiger from poachers. Launched in 2000, Kids for Tigers is an environmental programme highlighting the vital connection between the tiger and the ecological security of the sub-continent across schools in India . The efforts of these enterprising youngsters are not limited to just acting locally - they have also been lobbying with top politicians and have organized a letter writing campaign where thousands of children from the million strong organization wrote to the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje. Thumbs up to these kids!
Rhino sex ratio affects the population size (June Week 1 (2005)) Gorumara National Park in West Bengal is facing an unusual problem as the sex ratio of the rhinos is taking a toll on the species, with four female and a few male rhinos killed during fights while mating last year. The ideal sex ratio of rhinocerous population is one male: three females, but in Gorumara National Park the ratio is almost one:one. The wildlife officials of West Bengal recently had a meeting to find out a solution of this crisis, but nothing could be finalized. According the Deputy Forest Officer(DFO) of Jalpaiguri Wildlife Division (The Sentinel, 6 th June) most of the deaths are happening as male rhinos are trying to mate with the female forcibly. This in turn badly injures the females and in jungle even a simple injury could lead to death. He also added that males fight among themselves to show their supremacy and in such fights many of them, especially the young ones get grievous injuries. The other side of the story is that Gorumara National Park does not have a veterenary doctor for looking after the injuries of these endangered animals. The wild life division hires local private vets for this task. However, they are now planning to appiont a permanent veterenary doctor for this purpose. This is probably the best that the officials can do since the fights and the injuries cannot be avoided in the natural Rhino populations.
Volcano wakes up (June Week 1 (2005)) After lying dormant for over a decade, India's only active volcano on a lonely island in the Indian Ocean has woken up to spit lava—reaching as far as three km from the crater. A routine Coast Guard patrol recently witnessed eruptions on Barren Island—a thickly vegetated, three-km-wide strip with a history of volcanic activity dating back to 1787. Inhabited mostly by rats, birds and feral goats, this island lies 135 km north-east of Port Blair, on the inner arc, extending between Sumatra and Myanmar. Lava from the 1.6 km-sized crater is reportedly ending up into the sea from the western side of the island. Senior officers of the Integrated Command who conducted an aerial survey of the area last Saturday confirmed the volcanic activity.
Environmental programme launched in schools (June Week 1 (2005)) A month-long environmental awareness programme has been launched in schools in the rural areas in Mysore and Chamarajanagar districts from June 5 to coincide with World Environment Day. The awareness programme has been launched by the Mysore Science Centre in association with the Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering and in all about 30 schools have been identified. The programme is also expected to witness planting of tree saplings of more than 100 varieties. Tree saplings will also be distributed during the awareness programme. The programme is expected to cover nearly 2,000 students. If fruitful, this program might prove to be a good example for implementation of similar programs on a larger scale.
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