Day 7 saw the continuation of arguments by the Counsel for the Tobacco Institute of India, which focused on Article 21 and whether the 2014 Rules exceed its mandate as against the provisions of the parent Act, namely COTPA.
The Counsel for the Tobacco Institute of India continued with his arguments on Day 6 of the hearing before the Karnataka High Court. The Counsel began by referring to a constitutional challenge to pictorial health warnings that were imposed on tobacco products, in the United States in the case of R.J. Reynolds v. FDA. The petitioners, in this case before the Trial Court (No. 11–1482, 2012 WL 653828) and consequently, the Court of Appeal [No. 11-5332 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 24, 2012)], sought to have this mandatory imposition declared as constituting “compelled speech”.
The hearing before the Hon’ble Karnataka High Court continued on Day 5 as the counsel for the Tobacco Institute of India cited decisions of the Indian and the US Supreme Courts, in support of the existence of a right to commercial speech within the ambit of Article 19(1)(a). The arguments on this day, focused mainly on proving that the petitioner’s right to commercial speech is being curtailed by the impugned rules notified by the Government which excessively restrict the ability to advertise on the packaging of tobacco products.
One of the other arguments made today by the Petitioners was alleging lack of legislative competence of the Central Government to enact the COTPA and promote it as a public health measure since the same is a state subject. It also argued that the Supreme Court held in Ghodavat Pan Masala case that COTPA is not a legislation for the furtherance of public health. This argument will be explored in subsequent proceedings before the High Court.
The main arguments made today were that the packaging and labeling rules of 2008 and the 2014 amendments to these rules are ultra vires Article 19(1)(a), which guarantees free speech and Article 19(1)(g), which guarantees the right to freedom of trade.
CLPR is representing the Consortium for Tobacco Free Karnataka as an Intervenor on the grounds of public health. Starting today, we are reporting the summary of arguments taking place every day in court in these matters. A report of the court proceedings would not only serve as information for the public health community in the country to be aware and upto date with these proceedings, but also to document the arguments made in these petitions as these proceedings are one of the most important ones in the field of tobacco and public health in the country today.