Rape Of The Rock: SC Turns The Heat On Himachal Govt

New Delhi, September 23: | Updated: Sep 24 2002, 05:30am hrs
The Supreme Court on Monday imposed a punitive fine of Rs 1 crore on the Himachal Pradesh government for its dereliction of duty and inability to check commercial exploitation of eco-fragile rocks on the Kullu Manali-Rohtang highway.

The direction was issued at a hearing of the rock painting case. Solicitor General Harish Salve, amicus curae (friend of the court) in the forest case, had filed a suo motu application on the damage done by companies advertising on the rocks.

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If you come across any similar example of environmental damage in your neighbourhood or any public place, write to raperock@expressindia.com. Or log in to www.expressindia.com
The issue was first brought up by columnist Malvika Singh in the August 10, 2002 issue of FE, India can be booted about. She wrote, ...even the mountains are not being spared and are being desecrated with the crass marketing of Pepsi and Coke. Neither Pepsi nor Coke would dare deface the natural treasures of the United States, the Grand Canyon and such like, with their cheap ads and even cheaper publicity. But for India and the Great Himalayas, they have a different set of rules and no care at all.

On August 11, 2002, The Indian Express took this up in detail under the heading, Rape of the Rock. The article highlighted the damage the cola companies were causing to the environment by painting their advertisements on the rocks on the Manali-Rohtang pass.

A three-judge bench comprising chief justice BN Kirpal, justice KG Balakrishnan and justice Arijit Passayat said the amount to be deposited by the state government would be part of the Rs 5-crore corpus which will be used to remove paintings from the rocks with the help of foreign experts.

The bench asked Mr Salve to work out the share of damages to be borne by Coca-Cola, Pepsico, MBD books and other commercial establishments responsible for defacing rocks in the area. Mr Salve has to file his report by September 25.

The apex court directed the Union government to file an affidavit on whether such commercial vandalism is prevalent in other states as well.

The expert committee appointed by the court filed its report along with the video film. As per the report, while MBD Books has 78 advertisements painted on the rocks, Coca-Cola and Pepsico have 44 and six, respectively.

The committee estimated the cost of removing the paintings at Rs 1.75 crore and said the paintings could be removed with foreign expertise. The expert committee report said that besides Himachal Pradesh, such advertisements on rocks could be seen near Bangalore as well. The court then issued a notice to the advocate general of Karnataka to obtain the response of the state government by Sept-ember 26, the next date of hearing.