Tobacco in plastic pouches: Supreme Court rejects plea
J. Venkatesan in THE HINDU
New Delhi: Taking note of the report that 86 per cent of the oral cancer in India was caused by tobacco products, the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the plea of various gutka, pan masala and chewing tobacco manufacturing companies for postponement of the December 7, 2010 order banning the use of plastic as packaging material for their products from March 1 this year.
A Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly rejected the request of senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, P.H. Parekh, Abhishek Singhvi and others seeking stay on the Rules notified by the Centre to regulate the use of plastic packets for gutka and other tobacco products on the ground that these rules were unconstitutional.
Counsel wanted the ban order effective from March 1 to be extended till the court decided on the validity of the rules.
The Bench, while issuing notice to the Centre, however, refused to stay the rules or extend the time limit for enforcement of the ban. The Bench posted the matter for further hearing on April 13.
On December 7, 2010, the Bench during the hearing of a batch of petitions filed by manufacturers of tobacco products, challenging a Rajasthan High Court order upholding such a ban in the State, ordered a ban on the sale of tobacco, gutka and pan masala in plastic pouches from March.
The court had asked gutka manufacturers to shift to non-plastic packaging after March.
In compliance with rules
Earlier Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam submitted that the Centre had complied with the December 7 order and had notified the Rules. He said the National Institute of Public Health had submitted a comprehensive report on the harmful effects of gutka, tobacco and pan masala.
According to the report, 86 per cent of the oral cancer in India was caused by tobacco products and many school students had become victims of tobacco chewing.
Pan masala manufacturers, in an application, assailed the rules contending that they were arbitrary and discriminatory as they had singled out sellers/distributors engaged in the trade of pan masala, gutka and tobacco products without any reasonable basis.
Their right to carry on trade had been affected because of the rules, the application said and sought a direction to quash them and an interim stay of the operation of the rules.