Pictorial warning on tobacco products: No stay yet, SC says will look at Karnataka HC order

Owing to non-availability of the Karnataka High Court judgment, quashing the government regulation that packets of tobacco products must carry pictorial warning covering 85 per cent of the packaging space, the Supreme Court on Friday said it would hear a petition seeking stay on it on January 8.

A vacation bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justice S K Kaul declined to pass any interim order and said it would consider the petition on January 8, by when it directed the high court to upload the judgment on its official web page.

“It is submitted at the Bar that the judgment delivered by the High Court of Karnataka at the Principal Bench at Bangalore…has not been uploaded and this is why the present petition has been filed without the judgment seeking interim direction. Having heard learned counsel for the parties, we think it appropriate that the matter should be listed on Monday, the 8th January 2018. In the meanwhile, the High Court shall upload the judgment,” the court said.

Advocate Aishwarya Bhati, representing Umesh Narain, who filed the appeal, and senior lawyer Anand Grover, who appeared for NGO Health for Millions Trust, sought an interim stay on the high court verdict, saying the matter pertained to public health.

But the bench observed, “We would like to see as what the High Court has said….You (lawyers) want us to pass the order without looking at the judgment.

When advocate Bhati pressed further for an interim stay, saying tobacco companies would take advantage of the HC verdict, the apex court added in its order, “needless to emphasise, we have not passed any interim order today as we do not have the benefit of reading the judgment of the High Court and that is no ground on the part of the respondents to advance a claim in equity”.

Narain, in his appeal, said, “The implementation of Regulations mandating 85 per cent pictorial warning on both sides of Tobacco products was a culmination of an extremely long, cumbersome and excruciating fight by public heath activists, people whose life and family had been ruined by Tobacco, against the mighty Tobacco industry.”

The graphic pictorial warnings which occupy 85 per cent of the package on both sides will assist not only existing consumers of tobacco products to understand the grave health risks involved but also dissuade the younger generation from becoming tobacco addicts, the plea said.

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