Health warnings on cigarette packets will cover 85% of space
The government has made it mandatory for tobacco companies to carry health warnings covering at least 85 per cent of the surface of cigarette packets.
The health ministry amended the rules under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) through a gazette notification, fixing 1 April 2015 as the deadline and leaving cigarette makers with less than six months for compliance. The development has come in the wake of an international report by the Canadian Cancer Society, which ranked India at 136 out of 198 countries with regard to the size of health warnings on cigarette packets. Thailand (85 per cent), Australia (82.5 per cent) and Uruguay (80 per cent) were the top three countries, as per the report.
As per earlier rules, pictorial warnings covered 40 per cent of just the front surface of the cigarette packs in India. With the drastic revision in rules, India will share the top spot with Thailand.
Tobacco Institute of India (TII), which represents the interest of cigarette makers including ITC and Godfrey Phillips, said the proposed warnings are unreasonable, drastic and impractical to implement and enforce. “The existing graphic health warnings at 40% are adequate to inform and caution a person. The proposal to further increase the size of the warnings is completely unwarranted and unnecessary. Even countries like USA, Japan and China have textual warnings which are not disproportionately large,” said Syed M Ahmad, director at TII.
According to health minister Harsh Vardhan, the decision to increase size of health warnings is the first of many such changes to come. “I am a practising ENT surgeon and I have personally seen people dying because of cancer caused by smoking and consumption of tobacco. We have made a number of suggestions to the Cabinet on curbing tobacco consumption and this decision is just one step in that direction,” the minister said at a function organized by the WHO to observe Global Handwashing Day.
Gurgaon courts have 49,000 pending cases
With over 49,000 court cases pending in its district courts, Gurgaon has the maximum legal pendency in Haryana. The data was shared by Punjab and Haryana high court judge SK Mittal at a press interaction in Gurgaon. “The entire state (of Haryana) has over 5.29 lakh pending cases,” revealed Justice Mittal.
He said the judiciary is making concerted efforts to reduce pendency, with a disposal rate of 100 per cent in the number of cases admitted each year. “Over six lakh cases are admitted in one year, and we tend to dispose more cases than the number of cases admitted, such that some old cases are also settled each year,” he said.
While attributing most of the delays to warring litigants, Justice Mittal said, “The delay in pronouncing judgement happens primarily because of the delaying tactics of one of the parties, who expect to get adversely affected because of the likely verdict. If we insist on an early date, the bar association would call a strike.”
Justice Mittal emphasized that the national Lok Adalat, scheduled to be held on 6 December in all courts across the country, will help cut down on pendency. “We expect around 80,000 judicial cases in the state to come up before the Lok Adalat. It will be an achievement if even half are resolved. Beside this, several revenue-related matters, which will be heard in the quasi-judicial courts of the deputy commissioner, the sub-divisional magistrate, and the tehsildar, are also likely to be resolved,” he said.
The nature of cases that would come up before Lok Adalats include property disputes, matrimonial disputes, petty crimes, consumer court disputes, dishonour of cheques and disputes with cooperative society, etc. About the efficacy of Lok Adalats, Justice Mittal said, “When global issues can be resolved through dialogue, resolving petty civil and criminal matters, too, should similarly be possible.”