SC stays HC’s decision to quash ban on gutkha, other tobacco items

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed a Madras High Court’s decision to quash a 2018 notification banning gutkha and other tobacco products in Tamil Nadu.

A Bench of Justices K.M. Joseph and B.V. Nagarathna said manufacturers were free to approach the appropriate forum in case they felt the notification did not cover their activities.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal and Additional Advocate General Amit Anand Tiwari, appearing for Tamil Nadu, argued that health was a State subject. It was the duty of the State government to look out for and take care of the health of the people of Tamil Nadu, Mr. Sibal said.

He added that a number of health problems due to chewing of tobacco posed a huge burden on the State exchequer and the ban had been imposed based on the directive of the apex court.

Several senior lawyers, including C.S. Vaidyanathan, appeared for the firms engaged in the trade of gutkha and pan masala.

Mr. Tiwari said orders of the Food Safety Commissioner banning sale, storage, manufacture of gutkha and other tobacco products were backed by Regulation 2.3.4 of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations, 2011. The Madras High Court had set aside the State notification that was issued by the Food Safety Commissioner on May 23, 2018. Following this, the State filed an appeal in the Supreme Court.

Health Minister Ma. Subramanian said the ban on gutkha, pan masala and chewing of tobacco continued to be in effect in the State, and the Food Safety department would take action on violators.

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