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Delhi High Court on Wednesday restrained the government from acting against tobacco sellers and distributors after manufacturers challenged the ban on sale of chewable tobacco products in the national capital from March 30.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher, however, refused to stay a notification issued by Delhi government’s Food Safety Commissioner on March 25 banning storage, sale, distribution and packing of chewable tobacco products in the capital.

On Wednesday, the court forbade the government from taking “coercive action” against manufacturers, sellers and distributors until the final disposal of petitions pending before it and said the government’s notification has opened the floodgates to such petitions.

In their various petitions, manufacturers contended since they were governed by the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003, only the central government could regulate sale of tobacco products.

Last month, the Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain had banned the sale, purchase and storage of chewable tobacco from March 30 and ordered the Delhi Police and the Health Department to conduct surprise checks to ensure that the ban was implemented. However, the notification did not ban the sale of cigarettes.

Defending the ban, Health Department officials had said while there was a Delhi government notification of September 2012 banning gutkha in the city, tobacco retailers began to sell components of gutkha (betel nut and raw tobacco) in separate pouches, thus defeating the purpose of the ban.

As a result, health department began to draw up a new proposal to plug the loophole by banning all chewable tobacco products in Delhi, a government official said.

Officials said that suppliers from neighbouring Haryana and Uttar Pradesh also continue to supply gutkha to retailers in the city.

Meanwhile, the Health Department has also launched a ‘Tobacco Aware Citizens’ Directory’ to disseminate information about its harmful effects

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