Dr. Amanullah Khan v. Chairman, Medical Services

SCMR 1211
Download Judgment: English
Country: Pakistan
Region: Asia
Year: 1996
Court: Supreme Court
Health Topics: Tobacco
Human Rights: Freedom from discrimination, Right to life
Tags: Smoking, Smoking cessation, Tobacco control, Tobacco regulation

The Petitioner was a public spirited individual who sought to ban tobacco advertising on television by bringing a public interest petition under article 184(3) of the Constitution of Pakistan. He contended that cigarette companies’ advertisements were being broadcast on television. He also argued that smoking was an unhealthy habit which was steadily increasing in Pakistan, causing cancer and heart disease. The petitioner argued that advertisements for smoking therefore violated the right to life guaranteed under article 9 and the right to equal treatment guaranteed under article 25, and should be banned.

The Court dismissed the application. The Court held that while the issues raised by the Petitioner were praiseworthy, the Court did not have jurisdiction to ban the advertisements. Article 184(3) of the Constitution granted a limited jurisdiction that allowed unaffected parties to bring cases to enforce the protection of fundamental rights. As the Petitioner was not directly affected and the petition did not  point out fundamental rights that were at issue in this case, the Court’s jurisdiction did extend to enforcing a ban on cigarette smoking.

The Court did consider that the right to life might be engaged through the connection between cigarette smoking and decreased quality of life. However, the Court held that the right to life was not violated in this case, because prominent health warnings were displayed after each tobacco advertisement was aired.

“This petition clearly does not fall within the restricted jurisdiction enjoyed by this Court under Article 184(3), ibid. In the circumstances, although we appreciate the efforts made by the petitioner for saving the nation from the hazards of smoking, we cannot issue an order to ban the commercial advertisements relating to smoking on the television for lack of jurisdiction.” [1996 SCMR 1211, Para 2]


“There is a possible justification for constructing this Article in a manner which will embrace quality of life as well. But then it may be mentioned that after every commercial shown on the television relating to the promotion of cigarette a warning by the Ministry of Health with regard to the hazard of smoking is invariably displayed. It is not the case of the Petitioner that he had attempted to run an anti-smoking campaign on the television on the same terms on which the cigarette manufacturing companies put on their commercials but he was denied the opportunity of doing so.”