Allahabad: Questioning the "sincerity" of the UP government in restricting use of gutka and pan masala containing tobacco, the Allahabad High Court has said if the state failed to ensure compliance with guidelines issued by the Centre in this regard, the court may issue directions to "concerned authorities to follow legal provisions imposing a ban on such products".

A Division Bench comprising Justice Amar Saran and Justice Anurag Kumar passed the order on Monday while hearing a PIL filed by UP Chapter of Indian Dental Association which has sought a ban on the manufacture, sale and distribution of gutkha and pan masala in the state.

The court noted the Special Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Union of India, had issued three letters in July-August, 2012 "which direct the state of UP to pass necessary orders at the state level prohibiting the sale and distribution of gutkha and pan masala containing tobacco".

The court observed that the state government had on September nine this year filed an affidavit in the matter stating it would act "according to the directions of the Central government".

"As the aforesaid letters of the Special Secretary clearly contain the necessary directions to place restrictions on the sale and distribution of gutka or pan masala containing tobacco, we see no impediment before the state for not taking suitable steps for issuing the necessary directions on this matter in the next 14 days".

"The sincerity and commitment of the UP government to care for the health of its citizens by restricting the use of gutkha and pan masala containing tobacco, which is a health hazard, is under examination now," the court observed.

It should be recalled that on May 23 the Advocate General had informed this court that prohibiting the sale of gutkha was under consideration of the state government, even though banning pan masala without tobacco was not being contemplated, the Bench said.

"This statement by the Advocate General was noted with approval in our order of the same date", the court pointed out.

"But, contrary to this, instead of putting a ban on the manufacture and sale of the product, the state government has even lowered the tax so as to facilitate increased sale of this product," the court noted.

(Agencies)

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