State governments do not have the power to ban gutka (a preparation of chewing tobacco). So says none other than the Supreme Court of India. The ruling, which came on August 2, 2004, was in response to a writ petition filed by five manufacturers against the ban of their product in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The states had banned gutka on the basis of its adverse health effects, using a provision of the prevention of food adulteration act of 1954.
The court suggested that such a ban could come into effect only through a wider policy decision, through a parliamentary legislation or upon implementation by the Union government. But the court did not give any direction to the Centre regarding banning of the product. "We are going to ask the Centre to take adequate steps towards this," says Monika Arora of Delhi based ngo, hriday-shan. "This is imperative considering that the manufacturers are using the judgment to say that their product is safe", she adds. A review by Indian Council of Medical Research in 1999 suggested that gutka is mutagenic and carcinogenic. The organisation is planning an extensive research on the subject.
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