Claiming that “mere possession or storage” of tobacco and its products cannot fall within the purview of “danger”, the Bombay High Court on Friday extended relief to two accused held for possession of gutka.
A division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre quashed sections 328 (causing hurt by means of poison, etc, with intent to commit an offence) and 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of IPC among other charges, said “it is not in doubt that tobacco and its products are dangerous to human life and safety. However, mere possession or storage cannot fall within the purview of ‘danger’ contemplated under the said section.”
In March, an FIR was registered against Anand Chaurasia and Vijay Chaurasia, the petitioners in the case, after gutka and paan masala pouches were found from their residence and godowns during a raid. The products were stored in contravention to a notification issued by the Food Safety Commissioner on July 20, 2018, which puts a ban on gutka in the state. The accused were booked under various sections of IPC and Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA).
The petitioners, represented by advocates Aabad Ponda and Subhash Jadav, were seeking that the FIR against them be quashed and had challenged the action initiated against them by registering the FIR and invoking and applying IPC sections 328 and 188 in the case.
On Friday, the bench said, “We do not make any comment on the prosecution of the petitioners under FSSA and we are not inclined to show any indulgence to the petitioners on that count.” It also noted the steps taken throughout the world in the form of ban imposed on tobacco advertisement and promotion, pictorial health warning and high rate of taxes dealing with illicit trade of tobacco, has yielded some positive results.