Noting that despite a total ban on sale and manufacture of gutka and other tobacco products in Maharashtra, the same is still found in the markets, the Bombay High Court held that even if a vehicle loaded with such products passes through the state, though the destination would be some other state, still authorities here have the power to seize the consignment.
A bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Avinash Gharote said that under the guise of "inter-state" transport, vehicles purposely pass through Maharashtra and offload the banned products, which is then made available in black markets.
The significant ruling was passed on a plea filed by the owners of a truck apprehended from Malegaon city. The truck, loaded with gutka and other tobacco products, started from Gujarat was destined to reach Odisha but was apprehended while it passed through Maharashtra. The truck owners sought to quash the FIR on the ground that by seizing their truck the authorities here have infringed their right to free movement.
"Though inter-state transport would be permissible, the state authorities would be within their rights, to seize the goods, which are prohibited within the state, so as to ensure that they are not offloaded in the state under the guise of inter-state transport, with a view to enforce the prohibition within the state and curb black marketing of such goods," the judges said.
"Nothing prevents the transporters to plan a route, which avoids the state where the goods are prohibited. An alternate route, at the most, may increase the cost of transportation, but would save them from the clutches of prohibition. Thus, we do not find any illegality in the seizure of the vehicles, carrying the prohibited goods, which was way off the easiest route of transport," the bench added.
The bench further trashed the owner's contention that they were not aware that the products they were ferrying in their truck were meant for sale.
"Obviously, due to the various studies made, the advertisements, the films show the harmful effects of tobacco and tobacco products, it no longer can be said that any person, would now be oblivious as to the harmful effects of tobacco and tobacco products," the judges noted.
"In spite of knowing about the harmful effects, if a person transports such products, from one place to another, could it be said that such a person, was unaware that the same was not for sale? The answer would be an obvious no," the judges concluded.
The bench, accordingly refused to quash the FIR.