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October 7, 2018
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SC orders forensic audit of bottled water company

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October 7, 2018

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LAHORE: A two-member Supreme Court bench on Saturday ordered that a bottled water company’s forensic audit would be conducted at the apex court’s building and issued notices to the federal government, all the four provinces as well as companies using underground water.

The bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Saqib Nisar was hearing a suo motu case against free-of-cost extraction of ground water by bottled water companies at the Lahore Registry.

As hearing commenced, the company presented its record comprising 81 boxes in the court, to which the chief justice showed displeasure and remarked that the court had sought relevant record but the company had brought the unnecessary one. “Now the company’s audit would be carried out inside the Supreme Court’s building and the company’s CEO will remain present there till the conclusion of task,” he added.

The chief justice also asked company’s counsel Aitzaz Ahsan that previously the court had appointed forensic auditor but he made objection to it as well. He directed the court’s registrar to specify two rooms for audit purposes and the company CEO and others staffs would be allowed to use washrooms only. The CEO will have to attend audit proceedings on daily basis, the chief justice added.

The chief justice said, “If if court’s order is inappropriate in your opinion then you are free to make a statement against it on TV channels. However, bear in mind that the court had already issued a restraining order regarding issuing statement or commenting on a sub judice matter.”

Mian Zafar Iqbal Kalanoori, amicus curiae in the case, informed the court that the company illegally sold underground water worth of billions of rupees but paid nothing in return. Even payment of tax had been burdened to the common people and used 2.7 billion litres of water in three years.

During the hearing, Kalanoori also objected to Aitzaz for advocating a multinational company against the public interest.

To this Aitzaz said advocating a multinational company was not a crime at all. The chief justice remarked that the company was paying one paisa per litre as tax for using water but its water was substandard. He added that he had quit drinking it.

“It is lying to the people as minerals mentioned on the bottle’s label are not found in the water.”

Punjab Food Authority DG Capt (retd) Usman said minerals were not included in the said company’s water as per the details given on the label and the company’s water wasn’t even a registered brand.

The chief justice said in Sheikhupura, water was being bottled after extracting through a turbine and asked the company to submit a report regarding import of minerals claimed to be included in the bottled water.

He made it clear that the payment of two paisa per litre being made by companies was worthless. “It should be 50 paisa or one rupee per litre. Water is the greatest blessing which is being looted mercilessly. the company has been operating in Pakistan for 25 years but did not pay for water. It pays sale tax but why it is not paying tax on the use of raw material,” he remarked.

“We are making stern efforts at homes to save the water but the company is extracting water after hiring a building on rent,” the chief justice said and directed the Punjab accountant general to form a team to conduct forensic audit and furnish report by next Thursday.

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