State Over-stepped its Jurisdiction in Banning Tobacco Products: HC

A roadside guthka shop in Patna.

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Patna: Just days after the Patna High Court delivered a blow to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on his unilateral decision to seize the properties of those from whose homes liquor bottles were recovered, the court, siding with a tobacco product manufacturer, once again excoriated the Nitish administration of making rules that were in violation of the Central Acts.

Hearing on a petition by the Prabhat Zarda Factory (Pvt.) Ltd that contested the Bihar government's November 6, 2015 decision to ban manufacturing, sales, distribution, and consumption of tobacco products like zarda, guthka, and 'paan masala', a dual bench of Patna High Court comprising Acting Chief Justice Iqbal Ahmed Ansari and Justice Chakradhari Sharan Singh quashed the state government's decision saying it had no jurisdiction whatsoever to ban tobacco products as it did not come under the purview of the Food Safety Commissioner.

Agreeing with the petitioner, the court upheld that sale, manufacturing, distribution, and consumption was controlled by the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COPTA) of 2003, a Central Act, and hence did not come under the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006 that was used by the Nitish administration to enforce the ban on guthka and other tobacco products in Bihar.

Rejecting the defense argument presented by Additional Advocate General P. K. Shahi that the ban was in the interest of the people of Bihar, the court said that the rule was clear on the subject and the state had no jurisdiction to override a law as laid out by the Center.

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