New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday stayed an order by the Karnataka high court which struck down a regulation that tobacco product packages must have a pictorial warning covering 85% of the space.
As a result, tobacco companies will have to go back to carrying a pictorial warning covering 85% of cigarette and tobacco packaging.
The court emphasised the importance of public health and the harmful effects of tobacco products, observing that the Karnataka high court could not have struck down a policy decision mandating 85% pictorial warning on tobacco products.
It was hearing an appeal filed by Health for Millions Trust, a non-government organisation, seeking an interim stay on the high court ruling, which directed reduction of the size of the pictorial warning on tobacco products from 85% to 40%.
Kapil Sibal, counsel for the petitioner, told the court that the specified health warnings on the product packages were to be reviewed after 31 March 2018 and therefore, the court may fix the size of the pictorial warning at 50% and not pass an interim order granting a stay.
This was opposed by attorney general K.K. Venugopal, who said the top court should stay the Karnataka high court’s decision, which sought to undo a policy decision based on health risks posed to citizens by tobacco products.
The Karnataka high court, on 15 December, the last working day before the court closed for winter vacations, struck down the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014 for being unconstitutional.
The petitioner before the high court, Tobacco Institute of India, had argued that the rule was impractical.