The Supreme Court on Saturday ordered the chief executive officers of all major mineral water companies to appear before it on Sunday in a case regarding the alleged exploitation of water resources in the country.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, who was heading a two-member bench, had taken suo motu notice of the issue on Friday and sought data regarding water usage by the companies from concerned departments.
While hearing the case at the Supreme Court's Lahore Registry on Saturday, CJP Nisar said the court will see "whether the mineral water [provided by the companies] even has minerals in it or not".
Justice Nisar said that companies selling water should sit with the government and decide a rate for extracting water.
A lawyer for the federal government informed the court that the mineral water companies pay the government 25 paisa per litre of water, while selling it for Rs50 per litre.
At this, the CJP remarked that he himself boiled and drank tap water at home because "that is what [the people of] my nation are drinking".
He observed that a poor person was compelled to drink pond water even today.
Justice Nisar emphasised the value of water by saying that it was now even more expensive than gold. He said people have gotten into the habit of drinking mineral water and money was being made off of a natural resource.
"We will not allow the theft of water under any condition," the top judge warned.
The CJP observed that the companies making money from water get ahead while common people get left behind, adding that steps need to be taken to improve the lives of the common man.
The court subsequently ordered the CEOs of all major companies selling mineral water — including Nestle, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Gourmet — to appear before the bench at 11am on Sunday.
During the hearing, the CJP hinted that Article 6 of the Constitution could possibly be imposed now against those who try to impede the construction of dams in Pakistan in the future. He said he had started reviewing Article 6, which deals with high treason.
Article 6 of the Constitution states: "Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason."
"I will tell you one thing, I have no other objective other than to serve the nation," Justice Nisar said, adding that he would continue to work for the welfare of the people after retirement.
"If it weren't for this country, I probably would have been Aitzaz Ahsan's secretary [munshi] today," he said, referring to the senior lawyer who was representing Nestle.
Meanwhile, the federal government today submitted a preliminary report regarding mineral water companies operating in the country.
According to the report, 82 such units are operating in Karachi, 16 in Sukkur, 15 in Hyderabad, 12 in Islamabad and eight in Lahore.