Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 28
Under court scrutiny for delaying the implementation of harsher anti-tobacco rules, the government tonight notified 85 per cent pictorial health warnings on all tobacco packages by the industry. New packaging rules will come into effect from April 1, 2016, with the government giving industry time to roll out tougher warnings.
The move came after the government tonight reissued an old anti-tobacco health warning notification it had deferred indefinitely on March 26. The deferment came after the Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislation in its interim report asked the Centre to hold new warnings till it submits a final report on the issue. The deferment had caused a furore with panel chairman Dalip Gandhi, a BJP MP, saying there was no India specific evidence to show anti-tobacco warnings helped reduce tobacco use.
The deferred notification was critical as it raised the requirement of covering tobacco pack with health warnings from the current 40 per cent on one side to 85 per cent on both sides. Had the notification not been deferred, it would have been rolled out from April 1, 2015.
The deferment was challenged by petitioner Rahul Joshi in the Rajasthan High Court which ordered the Centre to implement it or face contempt proceedings. The court on the last hearing said Union Health Secretary should be present for trial if the ministry failed to act.
Accordingly, the Health Ministry (which had earlier sought time to notify new warnings citing the pendency of matter in the parliamentary panel) tonight reissue the deferred notification.
Rahul Joshi said, “Noncompliance of the court order was contemptuous on the part of Centre. It was in utter disregard to SC directions for rigorously implementing Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules 2014 under which new health warnings were notified. Deferment of warnings also constituted breach of the UN Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which mandates harsher warnings every year. India is a signatory to the Convention.” The notification came on the eve of World Heart Day.
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