The Gauhati High Court has struck down an anti-tobacco law passed by the Assam government, declaring it ultra vires (beyond the state’s powers), The Assam Tribune reported.
The Assam Health (Prohibition of Manufacturing, Advertisement, Trade, Storage, Distribution, Sale and Consumption of Zarda, Gutkha, Pan Masala, etc, containing Tobacco and Nicotine) Act, 2013, made the consumption and trade of all forms of smokeless tobacco illegal, The Telegraph reported.
The law came come into effect in February 2014 and its violation was a cognizable and non-bailable offence, carrying a minimum prison sentence of three years.
The division bench of Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice Paran Kumar Phukan declared the law unconstitutional on Friday after hearing petitions filed by tobacco companies. The petitioners said the state legislature lacks the constitutional power to enact the legislation, and that the power to promulgate such laws lies exclusively with Parliament.
“It is a major blow to cancer prevention,” Bharatiya Janata Party leader Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
Last year, the Supreme Court had made it clear in a ruling that the sale of all forms of chewable tobacco and nicotine was banned. It directed authorities, including the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, to strictly enforce its directions.