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No lifting gutkha ban,says High Court

The Bombay High Court refused on Friday to stay the notification banning paan masala,saying the state government had taken the decision in public interest.

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai | Published: September 8, 2012 1:41:23 am

The Bombay High Court refused on Friday to stay the notification banning paan masala,saying the state government had taken the decision in public interest.

The interim order was passed in response to a petition by Dhariwal Industries Limited challenging the seizure of its paan masala packets by the state Food and Drugs Administration.

Dhariwal Industries said the state government had imposed a “blanket ban” on gutkha and paan masala.

It argued that the two products were different and paan masala was not harmful.

Advocate General Darius Khambata countered that 98 per cent of samples of paan masala were found to have certain percentage of zinc,magnesium carbonate and other harmful substances.

A group of doctors from Tata Memorial Hospital,who intervened in the case in support of the ban,said the various processes the product was put through to add taste and flavour made it hazardous to health.

A group of companies manufacturing gutkha has also challenged the government man. Their petitions are to be heard on September 12.

The companies have questioned if gutkha can be classified as “food” and said it cannot be governed by Food Safety and Standards Act,2006,under which it has been banned.

The companies claim before the notification,gutkha was governed by Control of Tobacco Products Act,2003.

Sanjay Kadam,the lawyer who represented the doctors from Tata Memorial Hospital,said,“We welcome the judgment. Our stand was that loss of revenue (to gutkha companies) can never be a larger issue than loss of human life and health.”

FDA awaits nod to destroy seizure

With the Bombay High Court upholding the ban on manufacturing and sale of paan masala in an interim order,the state Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) is now awaiting nod to destroy seized packets.

The state FDA has confiscated gutkha and paan masala worth Rs 6.85 crore since the ban notification was issued in July. Of this,seizure worth Rs 92 lakh was made in Mumbai.

“Most of the gutkha,worth Rs 3 crore,was seized from Thane. We are now waiting for the final hearing to destroy the seizure,” said Kamlesh Sankhe,Joint Commissioner (food),FDA.

Paan masala contains areca nut,a WHO-categorised carcinogen. “This is the first time that paan masala has been included in the perview of tobacco ban.

“There is enough evidence to prove its ill- effects,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi of Tata Memorial Hospital. Anti-tobacco activists welcomed the move.

“It is a commendable risk the government has taken to ban paan masala.

“The challenge now is its implementation. Children,who suffer the most from the sale and consumption of paan masala,will benefit from this move,” said Vincent Nazareth of NGO Crusade against Tobacco.

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