NEW DELHI(PTI): The Delhi High Court today sought response of city government on a plea of manufacturers against ban on sale of chewable tobacco in the national capital from March 30. Justice Rajiv Shakdher issued notice to Food Safety Commissioner of the Delhi government while restraining it from taking any action against sellers till the next date of hearing on May 20.
"Issue notice. The respondent should not take any coercive action the sellers and the manufacturers till the next date of hearing," the judge said.
The court's notice was issued on a plea by a manufacturer Sugandhi Snuff King Pvt Ltd, which has sought quashing of the notification by the Arvind Kejriwal government, banning sale, purchase and storage of all forms of chewable tobacco including "gutkha, khaini and zarda" in the national capital.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, assisted by Vivek Kohli, appearing for the manufacturer, contended that the state government has no power to issue such a notification under the Food Safety and Standards Act.
The counsel further stated that Sugandhi Snuff King Pvt Ltd was manufacturing a pure tobacco product governed by Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce,Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003. The manufacturer also said only the Centre has the power to regulate sale or ban and not the state government.
The manufacturer moved the high court after the Delhi government had on March 27 announced the ban on sale, purchase and storage of chewable tobacco in the city.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain had banned the sale, purchase and storage of chewable tobacco from March 30 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 with a new proposal to ban all the raw chewable tobacco products in Delhi, a government official had said.
According to officials, gutkha is also being supplied to retailers in Delhi from neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Stepping up efforts towards tobacco control, the Health Department has also launched an innovative drive, creating a 'Tobacco Aware Citizens' Directory' to spread the word about its harmful effects.