A PIL has been filed in the Allahabad High Court, challenging the "cryptic decision" of the State Government, permitting the production, distribution and sale of Pan Masala during the lockdown period.
The petition has been filed by veteran journalist Sanjay Sharma, alleging that the Government order dated May 6, 2020, permitting the production, distribution and sale of Pan Masala, goes against the spirit of the Standard Operating Protocols issued by the Central Government for prevention of the COVID-19 infection.
The Petitioner has submitted that the Union Health Ministry has asked all states to prohibit the use and spitting of smokeless tobacco in public places to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. "Chewing smokeless tobacco products, pan masala and areca nut (supari) increases the production of saliva followed by a very strong urge to spit. Spitting in public places could enhance the spread of the COVID-19 virus," he argued citing an advisory issued to Chief Secretaries of all the States and Union Territories, by the Center.
It has been pointed out that on March 25, 2020, the Government of Uttar Pradesh had itself banned the manufacture, distribution and sale of pan masala while raising concerns about the use of pan masala and public spitting, which may spread the pandemic.
However, to the "surprise and shock" of the Petitioner, the said order has been "whimsically withdrawn" by the Commissioner, Food Safety and Drug Administration, Government of Uttar Pradesh, by way of the impugned order dated May 6.
"The revocation of the order of 25.03.2020 , vide impugned order Dated 06.05.2020 is absolutely illegal and unwarranted, because it neither discloses the reasoning, nor the intent, nor the logic behind the revocation of the earlier order which was indeed issued in public interest, citing reasons therefor," the Petitioner has argued.
The plea further contends,
"It is not clear as to how the Commissioner, food safety and Drug Administration reached a conclusion that the pan masala would no more cause contamination, or whether the pan masala now become edible and need not to be spitted out. The situation is certainly scary and therefore, the issuance of the impugned order is certainly an illegal exercise of powers the officer concerned, imperiling the lives of scores of citizens of the State."
It has been submitted that the impugned order has been passed in violation of Section 30 of the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 which enjoins the Commissioner to act in public interest.
Beside this, the Petitioner submitted that about 75,000 individuals in Uttar Pradesh are suffering from the dreaded disease of oral and mouth cancer, mainly due to tobacco chewing and use of gutka and pan masala.
He has asserted that Article 47 of the Constitution casts a primary duty on the State to improve public health and specifically to prohibit consumption of items which are injurious to health except permitting use of drinks or intoxicating drugs for medicinal purposes.
In this backdrop he has submitted,
"It is evident that consumption of pan masala, with or with or without tobacco is injurious to health, and speaking of the pandemic which has engulfed entire humankind, those who eat pan masala, would have to spit it out, and not swallow it, resulting in the contamination of surroundings by way of droplets, multiplying the disease, if consumed by an infected person."
Accordingly, the Petitioner has sought that the imougned order be quashed and the State Government of Uttar Pradesh be directed not to proceed with the production, distribution and sale of Pan Masala.
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