Ban on tobacco products: HC refrains from vacating order

Ban on tobacco products: HC refrains from vacating order

The Delhi High Court today refrained itself from vacating an order by which the AAP government was restrained from taking coercive measures against the sale of chewable tobacco in the national capital.

A bench of Justice V P Vaish said it will hear the matter and then pass an appropriate decision, meanwhile the interim order of April 8, will continue.

On April 8, the high court had issued notice to the Delhi government seeking its response on Sugandhi Snuff's plea which has sought quashing of the March 25 notification by the AAP government, banning sale, purchase and storage of all forms of chewable tobacco including "gutkha, khaini and zarda" in the national capital.

Later, a bunch of petitions were filed by other tobacco manufacturers, retailers and stockists challenging the notification of the AAP government, however some of them were disposed of saying the order which would be passed in Sugandhi Snuff's plea will binding on all.

"We need to hear entire thing from all the parties, so list the matter for September 1. We will hear the matter and pass the order. Interim order to continue," the bench said.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the Delhi government, sought vacation of interim order of the court as tobacco users are increasing on daily basis.

She further said that this application is filed in public interest and the manufacturer should be stopped from producing products which directly harms the public at large.

Counsel for tobacco manufacturers said that the state government has no power to issue such a notification under the Food Safety and Standards Act and it deserved to be quashed.
He said that tobacco products are being manufactured as per Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003, hence the power to regulate the sale or ban tobacco products rests with Centre and not the state.

On May 20, the high court had sought tobacco manufacturer's response on the city government's plea to vacate the order restraining the government from taking coercive actions against the sale of chewable tobacco.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain had banned the sale, purchase and storage of chewable tobacco from March 25, saying enforcement teams of Delhi Police as well as Health Department have been asked to conduct surprise inspections across the city to ensure that the ban is implemented. However, no such ban was enforced on cigarettes.

Health Department officials have said there was a Delhi government notification of September 2012, which was in pursuance of a series of directions from the Supreme Court to ban gutkha in the city.

But since the ban mentioned the term "gutkha", the tobacco retailers started selling the components of gutkha (betel nut and raw tobacco) in separate pouches. So, the purpose of banning the item was not served.

Therefore, the health department had last year started a new proposal to ban all the raw chewable tobacco products in Delhi, a government official had said.

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