Ban remains on paper; activists demand nationwide enforcement
The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought compliance reports from all state governments that have banned the sale and manufacture of gutkha and paan masala containing tobacco. They have been given four weeks to submit their reports.
Gutkha, zarda, pan masala, gul, bajjar and such other toxic and addictive forms of chewing tobacco are mandated to be banned by various states, as per Regulation 2.3.4 of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations of 2011, made under the Food Safety and Standards Act. At the moment, 23 states and five Union Territories in India have banned the gutkha products.
The bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and Kurian Joseph issued notices to the health secretaries of all the 23 states and 5 Union Territories to file compliance reports on the implementation of the ban. The court also asked why the products have not been banned in other states and why Regulation 2.3.4 has not yet been implemented. The order was given in the case of Ankur Gutkha vs. Indian Asthma Care Society.
The Supreme Court passed its order after the submissions by additional solicitor general Indira Jaisingh on behalf of the Centre that gutkha is being manufactured and sold in these states, including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, in violation of law. She also claimed that the rules are not being properly implemented by the state authorities.
Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Health for the Million Trust, in his submissions underlined how the ban is not being properly enforced as there is no control over manufacturing units. The banned products are also easily available from states where gutkha has not been banned. Advocate Vishnu Behari Tewari, appearing on behalf of Indian Dental Association, demanded a nationwide ban on all forms of chewing tobacco products.
“This is a historic victory for the tobacco control movement. This order of the Supreme Court has paved the way for nationwide ban on gutkha. For a complete ban, it is also important to ban the manufacture and sale of paan masala. The industry is trying to circumvent the ban by selling tobacco and paan masala in separate pouches,” said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, executive director of Voluntary Health Association of India.
The case will be heard next on May 3, 2013.
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