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Tobacco products to carry pictorial warning on 85 per cent of packaging space: SC

NEW DELHI

Tobacco products would continue to carry pictorial warning covering 85 per cent of the packaging space, the Supreme Court today said.

The apex court, on January 8, had stayed the Karnataka High Court order quashing the 2014 government regulation that packets of tobacco products must carry pictorial warning covering 85 per cent of the packaging space.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice A M Khanwilkar today made “absolute” its earlier interim order by which it had stayed the High Court order.

“Keeping in view the objects and reasons of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 and the measures taken by the state, we think it appropriate to direct stay of operation of the judgement and order passed by the High Court of Karnataka,” it had said.

The court has now posted all the pleas including the one filed by Cancer Patients Aid Association, NGO ‘Health for Millions Trust’ and Umesh Narain challenging the High Court order for final hearing.

Earlier, the bench had said that it was unimpressed with the submissions of the Tobacco Institute of India (TII) that the interim stay would harm the fundamental right to do business of tobacco manufacturers.

Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, had said that the high court judgement needed to be stayed and 85 per cent pictorial warning on packaging space of tobacco products be allowed to remain as a large section of the population is not educated.

Life sans health is not worth living and chewing of tobacco or smoking of cigarettes or bidis, causes irretrievable hazard to health, he had said.

It is the obligation of the state to make the people aware of the injurious nature of these indulgences, Venugopal had said.

The high court, on December 15, last year had struck down the 2014 amendment rules that mandated pictorial health warnings to cover 85 per cent of packaging space of tobacco products, holding that they were unconstitutional as they violated fundamental rights like the right to equality and the right to trade.

The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014 (COTPA) had come into effect from April 1, 2016.

It came into being based on the recommendations of experts committee, the plea, filed by NGO ‘Health for Millions Trust’ against the high court verdict, said.

The high court had, however, made it clear that the 40 per cent pictorial health warning rule, which existed prior to the amendment rules, would remain in force.

In May last year, the Supreme Court had transferred all petitions against the 85 per cent rule filed in various high courts to the Karnataka High Court and asked it to hear and dispose them of.

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