The Supreme Court on Friday refused to permit tobacco manufacturers led by the Tobacco Institute of India, an industry body, to clear their old stock manufactured prior to the health ministry’s April rule mandating 85% pictorial warnings on packets of tobacco products, including cigarettes and beedis.
Last week, the apex court had also directed them to implement the health ministry’s rule asking them to comply with the direction for large-size health warning on their products.
The manufacturers told a bench headed by Justice PC Ghosh that the April notification on 85% pictorial warning cannot be applied retrospectively and they should be allowed to sell old stock. However, the bench refused any relief but transferred the plea to the Karnataka High Court.
It had last week transferred all ongoing cases, including a few PILs, challenging the new packaging regulation to the principal bench of Karnataka High Court.
“Until the HC decides the matter, you (tobacco manufacturers) should not violate the regulation. You have a duty towards the society too,” Justice Ghosh had said, adding that “no order passed by any court until now will hold and the matter would be heard afresh.”
Around 27 cases were filed across the country by tobacco product manufacturers against the health ministry order that mandated tobacco companies, including cigarettes and beedi, to carry 85% pictorial warnings — aimed at deterring smokers with graphic images of diseased lungs and mouth tumours — on their products on its harmful impacts.