Cancer Patients Aid Association v. State of Karnataka

by Admin
October 26, 2016
LITIGATION
Public Health

This petition was filed by CLPR on behalf of the Cancer Patients Aid Association, seeking enforcement of Section 6 of the COTPA and the prohibition on the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products within 100 yards of educational institutions, and requiring the installation of signboards that proclaim the same.  This petition was filed mainly on the basis of a study done by the Institute for Public Health on the extent and pattern of tobacco use among pre-university students in Bangalore. This study titled ‘Study of Tobacco use and Perceptions about Tobacco use and Related Factors among the Pre-University Students in Bangalore City’. The study reported that out of the 19 Pre-University colleges included in the study, 18 colleges had one or more tobacco selling points within 100 yards of their campuses.

Section 6(b) of the COTPA prohibits the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products “in an area within a hundred yards of any educational institution”. Section 6 (a) of the COTPA bans the sale of cigarettes or any other tobacco products to minors, and law is implemented through clause (b), by ensuring that these toxic products are not easily accessible to minors. Further, the ‘Prohibition On Sale of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Around Educational Institutions Rules, 2004’ require the display of this prohibition on a Board, “at a conspicuous place outside the premises” of the educational institution [Rule 3(1)].

            The Petition specifically prayed that the State Government of Karnataka direct the heads of all educational institutions in Bangalore to strictly implement the ban, and place appropriate signboards in conspicuous places so as to inform the public of the prohibition. The Petition also sought for directions to the primary and secondary education departments to submit an ‘Action Taken Report’ to the Court, and the Bangalore City Municipal Corporation (the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike or “BBMP”) was made accountable towards ensuring that there was no sale of cigarettes or tobacco products within the prohibited area.

The Court initially issued an interim order on 29-06-2009 wherein it directed the Respondent BBMP and the Police to implement Section 6 of the COTPA in spirit and substance and file the action taken report. The Court also directed the State Department Heads of Pre-University and Primary and Secondary educational institutions in Bangalore City to strictly implement Section 6(b) of the COTPA such that there is no sale of tobacco products within the prohibited areas and that display boards are put up at conspicuous places to announce the prohibition, also stating that it constitutes a punishable offence.

The Respondent government thereafter represented to the Court that several directions had been issued to the relevant law enforcement authorities such as the Commissioner of Police, and to the department of Health and Family Welfare Services. However, it was contended by CLPR that tobacco products were still being sold to minors within 100 meters of educational institutions despite these instructions. Thus, the Court, by its order dated, 04.11.2009, directed the Police authorities of the respective districts to file an action taken report as to the implementation of the directions of the government, how many cases were booked against COTPA violations and future action plans.

Thereafter an order dated 6.4.2010 was passed wherein the High Court directed that the respondents shall ensure that Display boards banning the sale of tobacco products shall be put up compulsorily outside all educational institutions and that an inspection shall be made by the Respondents as to whether there were vendors selling tobacco within 100 yards of educational institutions and to file a report as to how many vendors were there and what action was taken by them to have them removed.

Thereafter, on two instances, the Government submitted before the Court that that schools and colleges had been sufficiently directed through Circulars  to comply with Section 6(b) and that the BBMP had imposed fines along with the seizure of products from non-compliant vendors. In both instances, CLPR produced evidence of non-compliance by producing photographs of 41 school and college entrances without the signboards and of vendors near educational institutions selling tobacco.

Finally, this petition was disposed of by the High Court by a detailed order dated 29.03.2011 wherein the Court directed the Education Department to make available a car with an officer of the rank of Assistant Director of Pre-University (P.U.) Education to carry out area-wise inspections every Saturday to determine whether each P.U. college in Bangalore has installed a Display Board that announces the prohibition on smoking and selling of tobacco and to ensure that there were no vendors outside the said college selling cigarettes or other tobacco products within 100 yards. The Court directed that this activity be carried out with the aid of the Petitioner’s advocate herself, or any advocate nominated by her who would accompany the officer from the education department on these inspections. The State Government was also instructed to take action in case of any violation, including enabling the Petitioner to intimate to the Respondent Commissioner of Police, the need to remove any of the unauthorised structures after following the prescribed procedure.

With this order, each of the 527 pre-university colleges in Bangalore were inspected by the Education Department along with a lawyer from CLPR to monitor the inspection. The entire exercise took almost 6 months and after every inspection where it was noted that compliance with COTPA was not done, a request was sent to the municipal corporation for removing vendors selling tobacco in the vicinity of the college. This compliance was done to a large extent and all schools and colleges in Bangalore complied in putting up signs outside their gates as required under COTPA.