In the “interest of public health for a year,” the Delhi High Court on Tuesday revoked several notifications made by the Delhi government’s Commissioner of Food Safety that forbade the production, storage, distribution, or sale of gutka, pan masala, chewing tobacco, and similar products throughout the capital.
The Delhi High Court received a petition from over 50 companies that make and sell scheduled tobacco products, primarily chewing tobacco, challenging seven impugned notifications that were published annually from 2015 to 2021.
The petitioners argued that the notifications were arbitrary and in violation of the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006 (FSSA) and its regulations, and that neither the FSSA nor its regulations gave the Commissioner the authority to impose such a ban because tobacco products are classified as scheduled goods under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act of 2003 and cannot in any way be construed as “food.”
The Delhi government had issued a number of notifications that were being challenged by the petitioners. These notifications forbade the production, storage, distribution, or sale of gutka, pan masala, flavored/scented tobacco, and similar products for a year in all of Delhi in the name of public health.
The petitioners claimed that the notifications violated their fundamental rights and were arbitrary, in violation of the Food Safety and Standard Act (FSSA), and were sent without their consent.
“The impugned notifications, however, have been issued by respondent no.1 (commissioner of food safety) year after year in a mechanical manner without following the general principles laid down under Section 18 and 30(2)(a) of the FSSA, which is a clear abuse of the powers conferred upon him under the FSSA,” it said.
The high court ruled that it is obviously against Article 14 of the Constitution to classify tobacco as either smokeless or smoking in order to justify the issuance of the notifications.