Barely 10 days after the Delhi government banned the sale, purchase, production and storage of chewable tobacco in the capital, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked it to refrain from taking any “coercive” action against the sellers and the manufacturers.
Justice Rajiv Shakdher issued notice to Food Safety Commissioner of the Delhi government on a petition filed by a manufacturer Sugandhi Snuff King Pvt Ltd, seeking to quash the AAP government’s March 25 notification.
“Issue notice. The respondent should not take any coercive action against the sellers and the manufacturers till the next date of hearing,” Justice Shakdher said, posting the matter for further hearing on May 20.
The ban on sale, purchase and storage of all forms of chewable tobacco including gutkha, khaini, zarda and nicotine mixed panmasala came into force on April 1. The ban order had drawn sharp reactions from tobacco products sellers and the industry.
Delhi health minister Satyendra Jain had said anyone found selling chewable tobacco products would be fined and action would be taken as per provisions. Jain had said the Delhi Police and health department had been asked to conduct surprise inspections across the city to ensure the ban was implemented.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the manufacturer, told the court that the state government had no power to issue such a notification under the Food Safety and Standards Act.
Sugandhi Snuff King, which manufactures chewing tobacco products, said only the Centre had the power to regulate sale or ban and not the state government.
The Delhi government had already banned the sale and production of ‘gutkha’, a mixture of raw tobacco and ‘supari’ (betel nut), in September 2012 after a series of directions from the Supreme Court.
However, the ban was not effective, as manufacturers started selling the components of gutkha in separate pouches.