Sale of gutkha becomes non-bailable offence in Maharashtra
The sale of gutkha sale has become a non-bailable offence in Maharashtra. On Wednesday, the state government issued directives to all government agencies — police, district collectors and civic bodies — to implement the order. The directives were issued following a Supreme Court decision to allow the state to take action against offenders under section 328 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Maharashtra became the first state to ban gutkha in 2012. Before the current order, it was a bailable offence with a maximum punishment of six months.
“We have issued directives to impose section 328 of the IPC, which is a non-bailable offence against the offenders. It became possible as the apex court in its recent judgement has allowed the state to do so,” said food and drug administration (FDA) minister Girish Bapat.
“It was a long battle as our decision to make the sale a non-bailable offence was challenged by the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high Court. The court, too, had struck down provisions, which was challenged before the apex court. The court recently gave the ruling in our favour,” he added.
Since 2012, the state government filed 3,727 registered cases against offenders of the gutkha ban and seized gutkha worth Rs 171 crore. In the past one year, 340 cases have been registered and gutkha worth around Rs 20 crore have been seized.
The state government has also decided to make punishment stringent in adulteration cases. It is coming up with a proposal to amend section 272 to section 276 of the IPC, after which offenders for adulteration will have to face punishment from three years to life imprisonment.
Bapat said similar amendments have been made by other states, which have been approved by the President. A bill for the same will be tabled in the coming winter session of the state legislature. The FDA has also declared its toll-free number to report adulteration cases — 1800222365.