Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why not ban gutka sachets, SC asks Centre

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre whether it was more interested in the revenue generated by sale of gutka sachets, which experts call a poisonous cocktail of tobacco and plastic, rather than the health of millions who consume it and invite cancer.

ABench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly asked the government to fix its priorities and sought its response by December 2. “Do government authorities know how many cancer patients are suffering from the harmful effects of gutka and paan. Can you (Centre) have financial interests outweigh the health interest of people,” it asked.
These observations came on a bunch of petitions filed by gutka manufacturers, who challenged Rajasthan High Court’s August 2007 decision banning use of plastic sachets for gutka and paan contents. Resorting to ‘polluter pays’ principle, the HC had also ordered fines on manufacturers using plastic sachets.
Though on September 7, 2007, the SC stayed the HC order, it sought assistance of the solicitor general keeping in mind the seriousness of the issue and had made the Centre a party to the petitions.
S-G Gopal Subramaniam attempted to assuage the Bench’s concerns by saying, “We have appointed a committee to look into these aspects. All we are seeking is time to file an affidavit based on the findings of the report.”
Though the Bench granted four weeks time to the Centre to file the affidavit, it was unimpressed by the government’s stand: “The government is not doing anything except appointing committees.”

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