The Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the Delhi police commissioner to take the strictest possible action against those selling tobacco products within the prohibited 100-yards near schools, colleges and hospitals.
Any vendor caught selling tobacco products near these places will face a penalty, ranging from a fine of R1,000 to three months imprisonment. The court has also ordered immediate sealing of all such errant outlets.
“Any transgression of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003 (COPTA) shall be dealt with the strictest punishment. The law has to be strictly implemented,” ruled Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna.
Delhi University, too, has been asked to direct all its colleges to appoint a nodal officer to help curb use of tobacco products by students. It has also been asked to participate in various awareness campaigns in this regard.
“Smoking by young children is not only harmful to their health but also introduces them to criminality. Not only active smoking but passive smoking is equally dangerous. It affects a large number of students,” the Chief Justice said.
The court took a tough stand after the World Lung Foundation (South Asia), petitioners in the PIL, complained that the sale of tobacco products still continues near schools, colleges and hospitals despite the court’s order on November 2, 2011.
The petitioner also stated that a fresh survey conducted on the premises of 726 educational institutions found tobacco outlets near 198 of them. There were more than 300 such outlets. The Bench interpreted this finding to mean that the police needed to revamp his taskforce formed as per the court order on February 3.
Delhi government counsel Najmi Waziri, however, replied that action was being taken and that 365 violators have been prosecuted, and a total amount of R36 lakh had been recovered by the government. The PIL had stated that the police and health authorities have turned a blind eye to the problem. This, despite Section 6 of the COPTA specifically banning such sale and ordering prosecution of the violators.
“Certain areas near schools and colleges in Delhi University continue to be smoking hubs,” the petition said.