MJIEL Vol 6 Issue 2 2009 - Article 4

Abstract: This paper sets out arguments based on international treaties as well as a combination of U.S. and Indian laws on the impending decision by the Indian Supreme Court (hereinafter Supreme Court) which has been called upon to determine the extent to which a corporations’ water rights may impede the basic human right to potable water. Coca-Cola and similar companies, which rely on an access to abundant water supplies for their production, have set up factories across India on the positive side they do provide employment for nearby residents. On the flip side, an appellate bench of the Kerala High Court (hereinafter High Court) has overlooked a community’s access to water for Coca-Cola’s absolute property rights. The company extracts so much water from aquifers upon which its factories sit that local and shallower wells have run dry. As a result, Indian women, with whom many societies charge the daily procurement of water, are having to travel farther and farther to fetch the family water. The effects of Coca-Cola’s water extraction have caused a political uproar across a wide spectrum of the Indian community. Now, the Supreme Court must decide whether companies like Coca-Cola do retain absolute rights to any and all water beneath their real property; thus the fate of companies’ like Coca-Cola and the communities’ livelihood rests in the Supreme Court’s hands… and there the decision has rested for years. This case could be critical in the movement either towards or away from multinational corporations’ absolute property rights in the face of thirsting and drought affected communities on a worldwide scale. The Supreme Court should rely on CEDAW, the CRC, the Constitution of India, precedent, and the public trust doctrine in order to satisfy both its international obligations to provide its communities with water and also to avoid judicial activism.

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