September 21, 2021 6:20:14 am
Observing that “second-hand smoke or passive smoking is a serious health risk for both those who smoke and those who do not”, the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission of Chandigarh fined the Director General, Haryana State Transport, and other respondents of the department Rs 1,35,000, while deciding seven appeals, wherein a Haryana resident had alleged that while travelling on the buses of Haryana State Transport, he found that the drivers and conductors were smoking.
The order has been passed by the bench of Raj Shekhar Attri (president), Padma Pandey (member) and Rajesh K Arya (member), while hearing the appeals filed by Ashok Kumar Parjapat of Haryana.
The complainant at the District Commission had alleged that while he was travelling in the buses of Haryana State Transport, he found that the drivers and conductors were smoking. The matter was taken up with the higher authorities, but to no avail. As such, consumer complaints were filed by him for payment of compensation and also to penalise the drivers and conductors of the said buses, who were found smoking during the plying of buses. Parjapat also alleged that the respondents therein have charged excess amount towards bus fare. The complaints were dismissed by the District Commission. Therefore, these appeals were filed by the appellant.
After hearing the matter in appeal, the commission said, “It is ironical that this person (Ashok Kumar Parjapat) has taken a cause, which is of common public interest and he has to come to this Commission again and again with the same grievance of smoking in buses and the department is not doing anything despite (issuing) express instructions of the Government of Haryana not to smoke on public places and government vehicles, including buses.”
Citing a judgment of the Supreme Court, dated November 2, 2001, in the case of Murli S Deora versus Union of India and others, the Consumer Commission held that “apex court in its wisdom after realising the gravity of the situation and considering the adverse effect of smoking on smokers and passive smokers, directed and prohibited smoking in public places and issued directions to the Union of India, state governments as well as the Union Territories to take effective steps to ensure prohibiting of smoking in public places, namely auditoriums, hospital buildings, health institutions, educational institutions, libraries, court buildings, public office and public conveyances, including Railways”.
“The appellant claims to be a whistleblower and at the same time, if the drivers and conductors are not ready to eradicate their habit of smoking in the buses, despite orders having been passed by this Commission to their competent authorities to get the said practice stopped and if, on account of that reason, the appellant is repeatedly filing the consumer complaints, in the capacity of consumer, on accrual of fresh cause of action, then the District Commission fell into a grave error in dismissing the consumer complaints, holding that he is repeatedly filing consumer complaints or that he is in a habit of filing the same. Simply put, whistle blowing is uncovering information or activity that is deemed illegal or unethical or we can say a person who informs on someone engaged in illegal activities. The respondents have performed their duties capriciously, as a result whereof there has been no change in the system. The respondents (department) acted like a silent and moot spectator and are allowing such things to happen. The appellant being a whistleblower can be said to be one of the important pillars of the country, who uncover such practices, other illegal activities. These acts of misconduct can range from minor issues to more severe. Regardless of their severity, raising concerns about these activities plays an important role in bringing people to justice and preventing further human and corporate disasters,” said the bench.
Stating the ill effects of passive smoking, the commission held that “second-hand smoke or passive smoking is a serious health risk for both those who smoke and those who do not. The people who are regularly around environmental tobacco also known as second-hand smoke have an increased risk of cancer because tobacco products and smoke have many chemicals that damage DNA…Further the negative effects of smoking in public carry over into other people’s lives with a tangible, measurable, and sometimes permanent impact”.
The Commission though dismissed the plea against department charging excess amount towards bus fare, allowed seven other appeals, directed the respondent department to pay Rs 5,000 each, in lumpsum, as compensation and cost of litigation in each case (seven appeals), and to pay Rs 20,000 each to the PGIMER, for in each case (seven appeals), which shall be used by the PGIMER for treatment and care of cancer patients.
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