NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed tobacco companies to implement the rule mandating larger pictorial health warnings on packets of tobacco products and refused the manufacturers’ plea to stay the implementation of new cigarette packaging rules introduced from April 1.
The apex court said that the tobacco companies have to follow the rules till the Karnataka High Court, where all the petitions from various High Courts are being transferred, pronounced its final order.
While directing the transfer of the related petitions from High Courts of Delhi, Bombay and Gujarat to the Karnataka High Court, the top court said the operation of order of the principal bench of the Karnataka High Court in Bengaluru refusing stay on the new rules would continue.
A Bench comprising Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Amitava Roy also directed that all the petitions challenging the amendments to Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labeling) Amendment Rules, 2008 (COTPA), pending before various high courts, will be heard fresh by the Karnataka HC. When the SC was told that Dharwad Bench of the Karnataka High Court has stayed the implementation of the new rules, it said that any stay granted by any court shall not be implemented until the final order is passed by Principal Bench of the Karnataka HC in Bengaluru. A notification by the Union Health Ministry for implementation of COTPA came into force on April 1, which mandated increasing the size of health warning to 85 per cent up from the current size of 20 per cent of the principal display area on packets of tobacco products. The bench said that the pending petitions in the three high courts to be transferred to the Karnataka HC shall be done in two weeks and the matter be decided in eight weeks.
“We request all the petitioners that till the disposal of matters by the Karnataka High Court, it will be the endeavour of all the parties to implement the rules whatever as amended,” the bench said.