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Cost of ₹1 lakh imposed on company for abusing the process of law

On Tuesday, the Karnataka High Court dismissed with costs of ₹1 lakh a petition filed by the Mumbai-based Council for Harm Reduced Alternatives, a charitable company, for “abusing the process of law” in “espousing the cause of manufacturers of e-cigarettes” in the nature of a public interest litigation by challenging State Govt’s June 2016 circular of banning manufacture & sale of e-cigarettes.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka & Justice Mohammad Nawaz, without going into the legality & validity of the June 15, 2016 circular, said that the court was constrained to observe that the submissions made by the petitioner were normally canvassed by manufacturers of electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS), commonly known as e-cigarettes.

Pointing out that the petitioner had also openly contended in its petition that manufacturers of e-cigarettes would suffer losses subsequent to the ban, the Bench said that it was expressly clear that the petitioner, being a charitable company registered under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013, used the PIL jurisdiction of the HC for espousing the cause of manufacturers of e-cigarettes.

When it has been accepted in the petition that the e-cigarette is also harmful as it uses nicotine, though it is not as harmful as tobacco cigarettes, it is impossible to accept that public interest is involved to espouse on ban imposed on manufacture & sale of e-cigarettes, the Bench observed.

While the petitioner had contended that the State Govt, under provisions of the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940, had no power to ban e-cigarettes as it was not a “drug”, & as e-cigarettes are used as an integral part of de-addiction programmes, the State Govt claimed that there was no public interest involved in the petition as e-cigarettes are banned considering their harmful effects while pointing out that a White Paper published by the Indian Council for Medical Research termed that the use of e-cigarette could lead to a public health disaster.

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