Why permit sale of only RailNeer at stations, HC to Railways

If you can allow Outside Food, why not Water? Mumbai High Court asks Railways

rail neerMumbai: The Bombay High Court today sought to know from Indian Railways why sale of only one brand of mineral water is permitted at railway stations where different brands and varieties of food are available and directed the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation to reply to a public interest litigation challenging the sale of only Rail Neer packaged drinking water at stations and on trains.

A division bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice M S Sonak heard the PIL filed by Lopesh Vora, a regular commuter, urging direction to the Railways and its subsidiary, IRCTC, to provide packaged drinking water of other brands also. Justice N H Patil was hearing a public interest litigation by commuter Lopesh Vora challenging a circular issued by railway authorities last year directing contractors and caterers having stalls on platforms and railway stations to stock and sell only ‘Rail Neer’ packaged drinking water supplied by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).

Vora in his petition claimed that a commuter should have the right to choose which brand water he or she wants to buy and consume. Vora’s advocates Rui Rodrigues and Abhishek Tripathi argued that it is “a consumer’s right of choice to drinking water” under Article 21 (Right to Equality) of the Constitution. They pointed out that there is an issue of quantity as well as quality. They explained that only 1 litre bottles are being sold instead of 500 ml. Also, tests done by an independent laboratory in Gujarat:showed the water is “sub-standard ” and did not conform to Food Safety and Standards Authority of India norms.

IRCTC’s advocate Usha Srivastava said the decision to keep only keep one brand of packaged water was because Rail Neer ” was not being lifted ” and it resulted in a huge loss. She said currently it is available in four zones having bottling plants and not at all places. ” We are not preventing people from carrying their own water as done on planes,” she added.

The bench said there can be no compromise on quality and questioned that when outside food and even e-catering is permitted on trains, “why not drinking water.” The IRCTC is directed to file a reply to the PIL along with quality check reports at the next hearing after a month. It is also directed to consider selling 500 ml bottles.

“Rail Neer is available only in one litre bottles. While other brands like Bisleri have 500 ml bottles also. Why should one compulsorily buy a one litre bottle? Moreover one does not know if the Rail Neer water is of good quality,” the petition said.

“If food of different brands and varieties are available at railway stations then why not water? You (railways) should allow other brands. If the railways’ contention is that IRCTC is facing loss then one bottle of Rail Neer can be given complimentary with each ticket booked then people will be encouraged to buy it,” the court said.

The high court has directed railways authorities and IRCTC to consider the contentions raised in the PIL and file their reply in four weeks.

Earlier another bench of the high court had dismissed a petition filed by the Indian Railway Caterer’s Association challenging the circular.

This is absolutely right?? Why only Rail Neer.. There are locallites who create duplicate of the Rail Neer bottles & sell it. They also fill the bottles thrown by commuters & resell it. –Kiran P., Rail Passenger

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