This public interest litigation has been filed by Ms. Sumitra Hooda Pednekar and 6 other individuals, consisting of doctors and public health activists, challenging the acts of government public sector insurance companies investing in tobacco manufacturing and producing companies. The petition which is filed in the Bombay High Court seeks to prevent the Government from investing in the tobacco industry, in protection of the recognised right to health which falls under the ambit of the fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
In this petition, CLPR is representing the Indian Medical Association, Karnataka State Branch (IMA-KSB) which was impleaded as a party. CLPR had initially filed an application to implead the IMA – KSB and also the Consortium for Tobacco Free Karnataka. While the application for the former was accepted by the Court on 23rd June 2017, the impleading application of the latter was rejected because it is an unregistered collective. The application has been filed in support of the Petitioners, advocating the public’s the right to health and life.
According to WHO Reports, the direct use of tobacco kills an estimate of 5.4 million people worldwide, from lung and oral cancer, heart diseases, tuberculosis and other illnesses. The Government of India, through several executive and legislative measures, has sought to curb tobacco use within the country. The Government of India has enacted the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003, which prohibits tobacco smoking in public places, the advertisement of tobacco products and the sale of tobacco to and by minors and mandates the display of pictorial warnings on tobacco products.
India has ratified the WHO- Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which mandates States Parties under Article 5.3 to protect its policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry. The guidelines on the Implementation of Article 5.3 of the FCTC recommends that Parties that do not have State-owned tobacco industries should not invest in tobacco or related ventures. In light of the above recognised ill effects of tobacco consumption, and the duty of the State to preserve life, the overt act by public sector insurance companies in investing in the tobacco industry is wholly contradictory and against the government of India’s stand, and international obligation, on tobacco control.