Murli S. Deora v. Union Of India and Others

(2001) 8 SCC 765; AIR 2002 SC 40; 2002 (1) ALD 88 SC; 2001 (6) ALT 35 SC
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Tobacco related diseases caused an estimated eight hundred thousand deaths in India per year, with treatment of tobacco caused diseases resulting in a loss of Rs. 13,500 Crores annually. The World Health Organisation estimated that up to seven million deaths, worldwide, per year were attributable to tobacco related disease, of which sixty million deaths occurred in developing countries during the previous fifty years.

The Petitioner, Murli S. Deora, brought this public interest claim on the basis of the right to life and liberty espoused in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

At the time, two Acts were in force, the Cigarettes (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 1975 and the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Bill, 2001. The objects of both Acts detailed the concern of tobacco smoking on public health, but did not establish a ban.

In an attempt to protect the health of non-smokers, the Court held that allowing smoking in public places would amount to an indirect violation of the right to life of non-smokers. It said that smoking in public was injurious to the health of passive smokers who were helpless victims of air pollution caused by smoking.

Agreeing with all parties to the petition that smoking in public places should be banned, the Court prohibited smoking in public places. It directed the Union of India, State Governments and Union Territories to implement this ban in auditoriums; hospital buildings; health institutions; educational institutions; libraries; court buildings; public offices and public conveyances, including railways.

“Undisputedly smoking is injurious to health and may affect the health of smokers but there is no reason that health of passive smokers should also be injuriously affected. In any case there is no reason to compel non-smokers to be helpless victims of air pollution.” Para. 1.

“Realising the gravity of the situation and considering the adverse effect of smoking on smokers and passive smokers, we direct and prohibit smoking in public places . . .” Para 9.