The Rajasthan High Court on Wednesday slammed the centre for not implementing larger pictorial warnings on cigarette packs, despite an earlier order, in response to a contempt petition. In July, the HC had stayed the central government’s March 26th corrigendum withholding implementation of 85 percent pictorial warnings on both sides of cigarette packs, as mandated by the 2014 anti-tobacco rules and had asked the central and state governments to implement larger warnings.
The contempt petition came up during the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation filed by advocate Rahul Joshi, seeking larger pictorial warnings on cigarette packs.
A division bench comprising acting chief Justice Ajeet Singh and Justice A.S. Grewal told Additional Solicitor General R.D.Rastogi to take immediate steps for the implementation of the larger warnings. The petitioner had requested the HC to hear the contempt petition, that he had filed relating to non-compliance of its July order, before the PIL.
“The Union of India till date, under pressure from tobacco lobby has not taken any steps for implementation of the said Rules of 2014. The inaction is willful and deliberate disregard of the Hon’ble Court,” the petitioner’s counsel S.R.Joshi argued before the High Court.
“The High Court took serious view of the matter and asked the counsel, Additional Solicitor General Mr. R.D. Rastogi to take steps immediately otherwise the court will pass order for personal appearance of the contemnor (union health secretary Bhanu Pratap Sharma),” Joshi told The Indian Express.
The union health ministry had issued a corrigendum in March this year keeping in abeyance the 2014 rules, which mandated larger warnings, five days before they were to come into effect on April 1.
The counsel for tobacco companies argued that the July stay order was “100 percent erroneous”, to which the HC orally observed that they (respondent tobacco companies) could be 200 percent sure that the stay would not be vacated.