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SC fumes at Bombay HC's stay on tobacco ads law

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has strongly criticised the Bombay High Court?s interim order seven years ago staying issuance of ban on advertisements under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 2003.

"There is total frustration of an Act framed in public interest," the apex court remarked when counsel Prashant Bhushan sought lifting of the stay on the operation of the law by an interim order seven years ago.

The Supreme Court expressed surprise that the interim order was continuing for the last seven years. A bench led by Justice G S Singhvi issued notices to the central government and six tobacco traders of Maharashtra on whose lawsuit the Bombay High Court had passed the interim order.

A non-governmental organisation (NGO) Health for Millions says in a lawsuit that the top court and various high courts have issued specific directions for implementation of provisions of the 2003 Act keeping in mind the larger interests of the society and minors.

At least one million people die in India every year due to tobacco consumption in its various forms and it is also responsible for 40 per cent of non-communicable diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases and lung disorders.

But the Bombay High Court ignored these aspects while passing the interim order, Bhushan said, and referred to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey India Report 2010 which stated that about 35 per cent of adults (15 years and above) in India use tobacco in some form or the other.

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