Patna, Jul 19: The Patna High Court today quashed the Bihar government’s notification banning manufacture, storage, distribution, transportation, sale of any type of gutka and pan masala which contain tobacco or nicotine.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Iqbal Ahmad Ansari and Justice Chakradhari Sharan Singh delivered the judgement after hearing a batch petitions challenging the notification issued by state food safety commissioner.
The government’s November 6, 2015 notification banning manufacture, storage, distribution, transportation, sale of any type of gutka and pan masala containing tobacco or nicotine for a period of one year and its allied activities was challenged by M/s Prabhat Zarda Factory India Private Ltd and others.
Quashing the notification, the bench said the state government has no jurisdiction to ban tobacco products and, hence the decision of food safety commissioner is beyond jurisdiction.
It agreed with the contention of the petitioners’ advocate Prabhat Ranjan that Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003 (COTPA) is a special and comprehensive legislation for tobacco products which cannot override the general act like Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
Ranjan submitted that when tobacco product is being regulated by a substantive central Act, then the same cannot be overriden by way of executing instructions or administrative orders of the state government.
Additional Advocate General P N Shahi, appearing for the government, said the ban was clamped in the interest of public health. As the product mixed with tobacco is a food item, therefore food safety commissioner has powers to ban it, he said.
Additional Solicitor General S D Sanjay submitted that since the central government has delegated its powers to state government officials under Food Safety and Standards Act, so the food safety commissioner was justified in banning ‘gutka’ and ‘pan masala’ as it was in the public interest.