Principals, Sarpanch can challan tobacco sellers

New Delhi: Heads of educational institutions including school principals, proctors and university vice-chancellors will soon have powers to challan anyone found selling tobacco products in the vicinity of these establishments.

In a major development meant to check illegal sale of tobacco products around schools and colleges, the Ministry of Health has proposed an additional notification under the existing Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COPTA) to list people who will have the power to enforce the provisions of the law.

The notification has been sent for the Law Ministry's approval, after which it will become operational. It has been issued under Sections 6 (a) and 6 (b) of COPTA which prohibit - the sale of tobacco products to minors and sale in an area within a radius of 100 yards of any educational institution.

The said sections also mandate the installation of a display board at the point of sale of tobacco declaring that such sale to minors is prohibited and a display board in all educational institutions stating that sale of tobacco within 100 yard radius is prohibited.

As per the proposed new notification, the following persons will have the authority under COTPA to act against and punish offenders -- V-Cs, Directors, Proctors, principals, headmaster, in-charge of educational institutions as well as junior labour commissioners from the Department of Labour.

Besides, Municipal Health Officers, representatives of Panchayati Raj Institutions including chairpersons, sarpanch and panchayat secretaries can slap fine on defaulters.

All officers of the rank of sub-inspector in state food and drug administration; all officers of the rank of inspectors and above from the department of education and all officers of the rank of sub-inspector of police and above from the department of home affairs will also be empowered to take action in this regard.

District Programme Managers and finance managers from the District Health Societies under the National Rural Health Mission, civil surgeons, chief medical officers at district hospital and medical officers at primary health centres will also be authorised to challan the offenders.

Powers will also be given to block development officers, block extension educators, directors and joint directors, Department of Health and Department of Education in the state governments and nodal officers of state and district tobacco control cell under the National Tobacco Control Programme.

Officials of the Health Ministry said the fresh notification was brought in after several state governments expressed a desire for clarification as they were facing problems with the enforcement of the relevant sections of COTPA.