HC refuses to stay Centre's ban on smoking scenes in movies

Bollywood director and producer Mahesh Bhatt today failed to get any interim relief from the Delhi High Court on his plea seeking to revoke the Centre's notification prohibiting smoking scenes in movies on the ground they are akin to advertisement of the social evil.

The court, which did not stay the notification, however, issued a notice to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and sought its response on Bhatt's petition.
A bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Rajiv Shakdher has now listed the matter for further hearing on July 11.

Bhatt has challenged the ministry's notification, dated September 27, 2011, saying such prohibition was "illegal and arbitrary".

Bhatt has sought quashing of the notification on the ground that it was violative of the fundamental rights of the citizen.

"Petitioner is deeply aggrieved by the 2011 amendment as they are not only violation of the freedom of speech and expression but also against the right to carry out profession, trade and business," Bhatt said in his plea.

The noted filmmaker added the notification is liable to be declared "null and void" on the sole ground of being "arbitrary and unreasonable".

The petitioner said the rule-making power should be exercised within the jurisdiction of the statute and rules cannot be made beyond the mandate.

"Rules made in exercise of the rule-making power conferred by a particular statute have necessarily to be within the four corner of that statute. The rules cannot make provisions beyond the circumference of the Act," the petition said.

Bhatt said Rules were null and void as they are without any jurisdiction and beyond the rule-making power of the Central government.

The Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Amendment Rules, 2011 had come into effect on November 14 last year.

The petitioner also said the object of the Act is to prohibit the advertisement of cigarette and other tobacco products and "the said Act and Rules making power conferred thereunder have no application in the field of production and distribution of cinema and television programme which is covered and governed by the Cinematography Act and rules framed thereunder."

Bhatt sought quashing of the notification saying any display of cigarette in movies and television programmes was not an advertisement.

"It is not a provision of the Act that there should not be any display or depiction of tobacco products or their use in any cinema or television programme," the petition said.

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