Supreme Court to hear 45 cases by tobacco firms

September 21st, 2008 - 4:34 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 21 (IANS) The Supreme Court will on Sep 29 hear 45 cases filed against graphic health warnings on tobacco packs, probably the first time so many petitions have been clubbed together for one hearing.Tobacco firms and lobbies have filed 70 cases against the health ministry’s initiative to curb tobacco consumption, of which 45 are solely against pictorial warnings on tobacco packs. These 45 cases were filed across the country in various high courts.

“It’s very difficult to move around the country again and again to explain to courts what is our position on pictorial warning and how it will serve a greater cause. Hence we had moved the Supreme Court (a few months ago) to transfer all the cases and solve it at the highest level,” a senior health ministry official said.

“The Supreme Court has already stayed the proceedings in 31 cases and shifted them to its own jurisdiction. The rest will be done soon,” the official told IANS.

The government has decided to make mandatory portrayal of graphic pictures of cancer victims on all tobacco packs including cigarette, bidi and other chewing tobacco packs.

The official said that on Sep 29 all the petitioners would be asked to explain why all their cases should not be transferred to the Supreme Court and for a one-time settlement of all their complaints.

“We pray the apex court will solve the cases at its own level,” he said.

After two years of waiting, the central government has notified that from Dec 1 all tobacco manufacturers will have to display pictorial warnings with a tagline “Tobacco Kills” in at least 40 percent space of the pack.

But interestingly, while Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss is vehemently campaigning against tobacco firms and bringing in the new warnings, his own state Tamil Nadu is leading the opposition against the pictorial warnings.

“Of the 45 cases, at least 28 are from Tamil Nadu alone (26 in Chennai and two in Madurai). Cigarette major ITC has filed seven cases against the pictorial warning in Chennai. This is surprising,” the official said.

Besides Tamil Nadu, at least three cases were from Maharashtra. There were cases from Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh), Guwahati (Assam) and Madhya Pradesh.

As a signatory to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), India needs to implement the pictorial warning by the end of this year.

Nearly one million Indians die every year from tobacco-related diseases in the country.

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