CSE welcomes court decision on expert panel


The Centre for Science and Environment welcomes the decision of the High Court in response to a petition filed by PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt Ltd and Others, calling for an expert committee to review the findings of pesticide residues in carbonated soft drinks. The experts’ findings are to made available in 3 weeks. All sides agreed that the government should choose the laboratories where the testing is done, and samples for testing should be picked up at random from the market, not provided by the company.

The court endorsed CSE’s concern over the lack of standards for permissible pesticide residues in soft drink sold in India. It has instructed the government to review the standards after comparing with the standards that may exist in other parts of the world.

The PepsiCo petition, filed on Friday, questioned CSE’s credibility and motivation, and made several unsubstantiated allegations, amounting to questioning the right of a public interest organisation to carry out such tests and make them public. It refers to CSE as having “no legal authority or recognition". At the same time, it asserts the ‘constitutional’ right of the Petitioners to continue to sell their products.

Such lawsuits, where the rights of individuals or institutions to bring matters of public interest to the notice of the public are questioned, are common in countries like the US. Common enough to be given a name: Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation or SLAPP for short. SLAPPs amount to silencing people into submission. They are not just “intimidation lawsuits”. They question the rights of individuals and institutions to speak out on a public issue, and to communicate their views to government officials. They question the right of people to tell their elected representatives what they think, want, or believe in – in effect, for attempting to influence government action.