New Delhi: Even as Delhi government revised its orders proscribing the sale of chewable tobacco products, the high court's decision on a plea filed by another company has come as a blow to the officials who are now worried how they should go about implementing the ban.
According to officials, Delhi High Court on April 8 had restrained it from taking any coercive action against a manufacturer who had appealed against the ban following which the ban notification was revised.
“There was a misconception that the court had stayed the government notification, but the instructions were for not taking any coercive action against the petitioner. Tobacco traders were under the impression that the notification has been stayed by the court,” said Dr S K Arora, Additional Director in the Delhi government's department of health. “That is why on Friday, we revised the instructions as per court directives and asked the district nodal officers to enforce the ban on chewable tobacco with the instruction that they should not take any coercive action against the petitioner.
“But, now, with the new directive having been issued, we are worried how to implement such an important notification for which we have struggled hard for nearly two years and which is very much in the public interest,” he said. The high court on Friday sought the Delhi government's response on a plea by tobacco manufacturers against the ban on the sale of chewable tobacco in Delhi while restraining it from taking any action against sellers till the next date of hearing on May 20.
“The respondent should not take any coercive action against the sellers and the manufacturers till the next date of hearing,” the judge had said.
Dr Arora said that the health department will once again revise the instructions as per the court directives.
The court's notice was issued on a plea by another manufacturer, which has sought quashing of the notification by the Arvind Kejriwal government banning sale, purchase and storage of all forms of chewable tobacco, including “gutkha, khaini and zarda” in the national capital. The high court is hearing a similar plea by a second manufacturer seeking quashing of the said notification.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain had banned the sale, purchase and storage of chewable tobacco from March 30 in the national capital, saying that enforcement teams of Delhi Police as well as health department have been asked to conduct surprise inspections across the city to ensure that the ban is implemented.
However, no such ban was enforced on cigarettes. Health officials have said there was a Delhi government notification of September, 2012, in pursuance of a series of directions from Supreme Court to ban gutkha in the city. But since the ban mentioned the term “gutkha”, tobacco retailers started selling the components of gutkha (betel nut and raw tobacco) in separate pouches. So, the purpose behind the ban was not served.
Thereafter, the health department last year started work on a new proposal to ban all raw chewable tobacco products in Delhi, a government official had said.