SC notice to Centre on PIL seeking ban on gutka

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to the Centre on a plea seeking prohibition of production, consumption and trade of gutka, pan masala and chewing tobacco in all forms.

A bench of Justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya sought response from the Union  government on an interlocutory application filed by NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), requesting the court to issue direction for strict enforcement of ban on all such products.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, submitted that as many as 14 states had already banned gutka and a mixture of pan masala and tobacco but the production of pure tobacco and pan masala without tobacco was still n practice.

He contended that even the ban imposed by 14 states was not effective as manufacture was yet to be curbed.

“If gutka and chewing tobacco is banned, leaving pan masala alone, then the implementation of such a ban is rendered impossible as manufacturers will pass on their tobacco-laden pan masala as ‘sada’ pan masala or tobacco-free pan masala. Pan masala consumption too is linked to high rates of oral cancer,” he noted.

Violation of orders

The counsel alleged that the order passed by the apex court on December 7, 2010 for prohibition of such products were “wilfully and brazenly” violated by some manufacturers who sold them under other “misleading” nomenclature and some others dumped their products under the “for export” tag.

The application said that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, a statutory body set-up under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 had on August 5 last year banned gutka and other chewing tobacco products.

It sought direction from the bench that disobeying their order would make the manufacturer liable under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, Food Safety And Standards Act, 2006, and for contempt of court.

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