Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd has informed the Supreme Court that it does not intend to commence manufacturing operations at its plant located at Plachimada (Palakkad district) in Kerala. This plant has not been operating after the Company decided to suspend operations, of its own volition, in March 2004.  

The Bench comprising Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul made a note of the statement and in its order dated July 13, 2017, stated, “We record the aforesaid statement and, therefore, dispose of these appeals as being become infructuous in terms of the signed order.”

The court was hearing seven civil appeals on the issue. The petitioners’ counsels decided not to oppose the issue.

In December 2003, the High Court of Kerala had permitted the Company to operate the plant, in case it wanted to do so but with certain conditions. Hindustan Coca-Cola, as well as the panchayat, appealed against the order to the Kerala High Court.

On April 7, 2005, the court directed the panchayat to renew the licence and allowed Hindustan Coca-Cola to withdraw 500,000 litres of groundwater daily under normal rainfall conditions.

Certain vested interests had started an agitation against the plant in 2002, claiming that the plant was polluting the groundwater and also drawing more water than what it had been licensed for. These allegations never withstood the rigour of data, research, and studies conducted by independent agencies and even institutions under the Government of Kerala itself.

The plant had been commissioned in 2000 after Coca-Cola had been allotted 34.64 acres land from the state government. When operational, the plant provided direct and indirect employment to more than 400 people, with 90 per cent belonging to the Chitur taluk.

Since the commissioning of the plant in 2000, here is a brief timeline of the turn of events…

March 2000 - Hindustan Coca-Cola beverages plant commissioned post a licence issued by the Perumatty Gram Panchayat for construction of a factory at Plachimada, Palakkad District, Kerala for manufacturing soft drinks, aerated and non-aerated fruit drinks, mineral water etc.

April 2002 - Agitation by locals in respect of alleged over extraction of ground water by HCCB

May 2003 – Cancellation of the licence granted in favour of HCCB by the panchayat, purportedly in view of public interest considering the alleged scarcity of water in the area coupled with environmental and health problems

March 2004 – HCCB decides to suspend operations at its plant of its own volition

April 2005 – High Court of Kerala directs the panchayat to renew the licence of HCCB to operate its plant in case it wanted to, and it entitled HCCB to draw ground water up to 5 lakh litres per day. HCCB still decides not to operate the plant