Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Monday directed mineral water companies to pay the price of ground water and fix the quality of their water by next Monday, warning them that the companies would otherwise be shut down.
While hearing a case regarding the use of ground water by mineral water companies at the Supreme Court, the top judge said that the judicial commission's report was inconclusive, adding that mineral water companies should have mercy on consumers.
CJP Nisar asked the advocate generals of all four provinces to suggest how the issue could be fixed. "This fraud with citizens should be ended [...] We will not let the citizens' water and money be wasted." he asserted.
During the hearing, the three-member bench directed water companies to follow the recommendations of the judicial commission.
On November 20, the SC had directed a judicial commission to inspect companies that sell bottled water locally, and directed all such companies to rectify their errors within 10 days.
"They are taking water from Indus River and canals. They are cleaning the water and selling it," CJP Nisar said, remarking: "There should be a restriction on mineral water companies."
He told a mineral water company owner that until now, the company had been selling citizens poor quality drinking water.
"Do you not think about the country and citizens?" he asked, passing the observation that only Qarshi and Gourmet's water quality was acceptable.
The top judge directed the companies to the improve the quality of their water by Monday otherwise they would be shut down.
"People will not die thirsty ─ water from wells is of better quality than this," he said.
Environmental Protection Agency Director General Farzana Shah told the court that mineral water companies source their water from the ground and canals in Punjab, replacing the canal water with sewage.
The tainted water, she said, is then used by farmers to water their crops.
A lawyer for a mineral water company, Shahid Hamid, said that his client had adhered to all the quality standards.
CJP Nisar said that the court still had not registered a case against mineral water companies, although given the conduct of the companies, he said, it should be done.
He directed Hamid to provide monetary reimbursement for the water that had been withdrawn.
Justice Faisal Arab, a member of the apex court bench, said that nobody had more sources of water than Canada, and even there the water was not free.
"Here, they (mineral water companies) are taking water for free for industrial use," he observed.
Justice Nisar lashed out at the companies' lawyers, saying that they would "make this country into Ethiopia".
Hamid told him that he could impose a tax, to which CJP Nisar replied, "You are not paying the cost of the basic raw materials."
The DG EPA said that mineral water companies have certain disadvantages while presenting a water sample in the court.
Ahsan Siddiqui of the judicial commission said that bottled water companies, on a monthly basis, withdraw 7 billion litres of water in the aquifer and replace it with 0.5bn litres of dirty water.
CJP Nisar was of the opinion that people should stop consuming bottled water.
"They don't give one paisa," he said, adding: "If these companies give money, our dam will be made. We don't need anyone else."
Justice Nisar called for a meeting at 5pm today, asking all the advocate generals and companies' lawyers to attend.