New Delhi: The Delhi government on Wednesday moved the high court here urging vacation of its order where the government was directed not to take "coercive action" against tobacco sellers and manufacturers.
Appearing for the Aam Aadmi Party government, advocate Indira Jaising argued that the Delhi government had banned manufacturing, sale of chewable tobacco "in the interest of public health".
Justice Rajiv Shakdher, who earlier on pleas by tobacco manufacturers and sellers granted them protection against prosecution and asked the government not to take coercive action against them, on Wednesday refused immediate relief to the government.
The court, however, issued notice to manufacturers on whose pleas it has issued direction and posted the matter for July 1.
The Delhi government has banned all forms of chewable tobacco - including gutkha, khaini and zarda - in the national capital.
The government on March 25 issued a notification prohibiting manufacture, storage, distribution or sale of tobacco which is either flavoured, scented or mixed with any additive.
The tobacco manufacturers had moved the court against the government's decision on which court provided them protection and now the government approached the court asking it to vacate its order of not allowing to take coercive against against them, who are still manufacturing and selling tobacco products.
Jaising told the court that many states have banned the chweable tobacco and no court has stayed the order of those states.
"Parliament has recognised the fact that foods containing substances as chewable tobacco are detrimental to human health and welfare. If the consumption of such articles is allowed with abandon, a very real threat is posed not only to present generations, but also for posterity," argued Jaising.
She added that, therefore, "the commissioner of food and safety (Delhi government) has been made accountable to prohibit the manufacture, sale, storage, distribution or sale of any article of food viz, chewable tobacco in the interest of public health".
The plea of the government said the use of smokeless tobacco was associated with high prevalence of "oral cancer in India". "India is the highest incidence of oral cancer in the world," it added.
Meanwhile, an impleadment application was also filed by an oraganisation 'World Lungs Foundation', asking the court to implead it as a party in the case, which the court allowed.
The plea said: "One third of all the oral cancer patients in the world are in India which are being called as the capital of oral cancer in the world. 90 percent of the oral cancer cases are caused by the tobacco products."
"In India, 40 percent of the cancers' are mouth and related types. Tobacco use is estimated to account for about 41 percent of oral/pharyngeal cancer cases in men, and 11 percent in women. Smokeless tobacco causes oral cancer in humans," said the organisation's counsels Santosh Kumar and Rajiv Ranjan Mishra.