Bengaluru: In a major boost to anti-tobacco campaign, the Karnataka High Court on Wednesday gave its green signal to the earlier Central government notification which recommended that all tobacco products should carry warnings covering 85 per cent of the package area from April 1, up from 40 per cent at present.
Justice Ravi Malimath passed the orders by vacating an earlier order of the high court staying the operation of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014. According to the notification issued on October 15, 2014: “The specified health warning shall cover at least 85 percent of the principal display area of the package, of which 60 percent shall cover pictorial health warning and 25 percent textual health warning and shall be positioned on the top edge of the package.”
The new rule was to be implemented from April 1, 2015, but it was kept in abeyance by the parliamentary committee. Subsequently, the Rajasthan High Court directed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to take steps to implement the pictorial warning from April 1, 2016 without further delay.
The petitioners before the High Court - Tobacco Institute of India and others contended that 85 percent of pictorial warnings cannot be incorporated on the tobacco products, as it would affect the industry and a large number of families depend on it. The petitioners had also stated that as the matter related to pictorial warnings was still pending before that Supreme Court, the NGOs must not be allowed to implead (to be made parties) in the petitions.
However, the bench allowed an interlocutory application filed by an NGO - Health for Millions, which had also sought directions to vacate the stay order. The bench in the order observed that main objective of the NGO was to create awareness and spread knowledge amongst the people about the prevention of and relief from general health problems. It has also worked on several key priority issues pertaining to tobacco control in India, it said.