New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday declined to stay the city government`s notification imposing a blanket ban on manufacture, sale, storage and display of all gutka products under the Food Safety and Standards(FSS) Act.
The court, however, issued notice to the Delhi government, the Centre through the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and also Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and sought their response by December 11 on the plea of a city-based gutka manufacturer challenging the September 11 notification.
"Except issuing notices, we are not inclined to pass any order as the notification (of September 11) was issued (by Delhi government) on the basis of the Centre`s regulations, which is not under challenge," the bench of Chief Justice D Murugesan and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw said while dismissing the stay application filed by Trimuti Fragrances Private Ltd.
In its plea, the gutka manufacturer had said that the city government had issued the notification in terms of Centre`s August 2011 Regulations under the Food Safety and Standards Act.
As per the 2.3.4 of the Regulations, "products (should) not to contain any substance which may be injurious to health; Tobacco and nicotine shall not be used as ingredients in any food product."
Terming the city government`s notification as arbitrary, the petition had said, "The notification is arbitrary and bad in law in as much the same is ultra vires the FSS Act itself which does not confer any power to impose permanent prohibition on any food product."
Appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate AM Singhvi submitted that a central law--Cigarettes and Other tobacco Products Act 2003 (COTPA)--is already there to control tobacco products and any general regulations under the FSS Act could not supersede the special Act.
He also submitted that the food safety law did not empower the city government to issue any such regulation imposing blanket ban on gutka products.
As per the petition, "Parliament by enacting COTPA has already enviced its intent to occupy the whole field with regard to prohibition of advertisement and regulation of trade and commerce, production, supply and distribution of tobacco products.
"The notification is nothing but a colourable exercise of power in as much the government of Delhi has erroneously proceeded to prohibit a defined tobacco product under the regulation framed by SFFAI governing food products," the petition said.
The Delhi government had issued the notification banning gutka products after number of states including Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Kerala, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Bihar announced ban on gutka products.