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No Relief on Tobacco pix warning cut to size

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New Delhi :  The Supreme Court has refused to stay the Karnataka High Court’s order on December 15 quashing the 2014 Government regulation to carry graphic pictorial warning on 85% packaging space of the tobacco products.

The Vacation Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul on Friday refrained from acting on the petitions on the ground that neither petitioners produced the High Court judgment nor the High Court has yet uploaded it on its website.

It was on an Apex Court decision in May last year that all petitions pending before various High Courts against 85% pictorial warning rule of the Health Ministry were transferred to the Karnataka High Court which ruled that the ministry has no jurisdiction to make such rules. The rule had mandated 85% pictorial warning on both sides of the tobacco products.


Fixing the next hearing on January 8 after the courts open after the vacation, the Bench said: “Needless to emphasise, we have not passed any interim order today as we do not have the benefit of reading the judgment of the High Court and there is no ground on the part of the respondents to advance a claim in equity.” It also asked the Supreme Court registry to communicate this order to the High Court registry “to do the needful in the matter.”

The lawyers appearing for the petitioners, Health for Millions Trust and cancer patient Umesh Narain, to seek a status quo argued that the judgment is not yet mounted on the High Court’s website and hence the petitions were filed without the judgment.

Refusing to grant any interim direction, the Bench said: “We would like to see as to what the High Court has said. We do not know what has been said in the judgment and can’t pass an order without looking at it.”

The petitioners argued that the regulation struck down by the High Court was a culmination of an extremely long, cumbersome and excruciating fight against the mighty tobacco industry by public health activists and people whose life and families were ruined by tobacco. Their submission was that the pictorial warning not only helps the existing users of tobacco products to understand the grave health risks involved but it will also dissuade the younger generation from becoming tobacco addicts.