Karnataka HC strikes down rule on stringent tobacco pack warnings:

Karnataka HC strikes down rule on stringent tobacco pack warnings:

Context

The Karnataka High Court on Friday declared the Cigarette and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014 as unconstitutional

‘2014 rules on graphics unconstitutional’

Cigarette companies have partially won a legal battle against the Union government, as the Karnataka High Court on Friday declared as unconstitutional the Cigarette and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014

The 2014 amendement

It had enhanced to 85% the area of pictorial warning on the principal area of packages of cigarette and other tobacco products.

2008 Rules to remain

The court, however, rejected the challenge made to the similar Rules of 2008, and made it clear that the 2008 rules — which had prescribed that 40% of the specified pictorial warning be printed on the principal area of the packages — would be in force until the Union government frames a fresh rule or amends the 2008 rules afresh.

Backdrop

  • A special division bench delivered the verdict on a batch of petitions, filed by the Tobacco Institute of India, cigarette manufacturers like ITC Ltd., beedi and other tobacco products manufacturers before the High Courts of Karnataka, Calcutta, Delhi, Bombay, Gujarat, and Rajasthan, challenging the 2014 rules
  • All these petitions were transferred to the Karnataka High Court by the apex court.

Differing views of the judges

Though the Bench came to a unanimous conclusion to strike down the 2014 rules, the judges differed in their views.

View of Justice Patil

  • No concurrence between various govt departments

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare unilaterally framed the Rules without concurrence of the other departments concerned, and this was a violation of the Article 77 (Conduct of Business of Government of India) and the Transaction of Business (ToB) rules framed under it as the subject of tobacco control and legislation was not attached to one department or Ministry.

  • Parliamentary Committee bypassed

The rules were notified, even before the Parliamentary Committee on sub-ordinate legislations was examining them.

  • View of the Ministry of Commerce: No benefit of the rules

Ministry of Commerce had opposed 85% area for pictorial warning on the ground that it would not result in any benefit and wanted to restrict the pictorial warnings to 40% or 50% .

  • View of the Labour ministry: Would hurt poor families

The Labour Ministry had opposed pictorial warning for the reason that it would harm the beedi industry, on which several poor families are depending upon for their livelihood

Justice Patil did not express his opinion on Article 19(1)(g).

View of Justice Nagarathna

The 2014 rules are not contrary to the ToB and the Article 77, and noted that the rules were notified in October 2015, giving effect to from April 1, 2016, due to an order passed by the Rajasthan High Court even as the Parliamentary Committee was examining the rules.

As per recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee

Both the judges observed that the Parliamentary Committee, in its final report submitted on March 15, 2016 had recommended restricting the area of pictorial warning to 50%.

But Rules contrary to Article 19(1)(g)

The rules are contrary to Article 19(1)(g) [right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business] as they are “unreasonable” restrictions imposed “without application of mind or any basis.”

No Medical data was provided

Referring to cautions and contents of warnings lime “smoking kills” or “tobacco kills”, “smoking causes cancer”, etc, judge pointed out that no medical or scientific data or empirical research was conducted and data collected placed before the court in this regard.

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