A court in southern India yesterday lifted a ban on the manufacture and sale of soft drinks by US giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi, amid claims that their beverages contained pesticides.
The communist government in the state of Kerala had imposed the ban on Aug. 11 after claims by a New Delhi-based environmental group, but the Kerala High Court ruled that the state government did not have the authority to do so.
"The ban order issued by the state government was not within the legal powers that rest with the government. Thus we set aside the government order," chief justice V.K. Bali and justice M. Ramachandran said in their ruling.
The cola companies, both of which have bottling plants in the state, welcomed the court order.
This order "clearly validates PepsiCos steadfast confidence in the quality and safety of our products", Pepsi said in a statement.
"This order protects the interests of big and small retailers, local entrepreneurs and employees which have been affected by this illegal ban," Coca-Cola said, adding that its drinks would soon be available in the state.
Five more of India's 29 states have banned or restricted the sale of Coke and Pepsi after the pesticides claim was made early last month.
Coca-Cola said it hoped that other state governments would reconsider similar orders. The companies did not say how much their business had been hit by the ban.
The rivals, who account for 99 percent of India's enormous soft drinks market, have insisted through newspaper advertisements and public statements that their locally bottled drinks meet international safety standards.
Both Indian and US business leaders have warned that the controversy could tarnish India's investment image abroad.