Madras High Court says govt can ban products harmful to public health

Refusing to release a consignment of tobacco products that was seized by the Food Safety Department, the Madras High Court said the State government has the power to ban any tobacco product that is found to be injurious to public health.

However, such a ban should be imposed only after proper evaluation and scientific studies to prove that a product was harmful to public health, Justice SM Subramaniam added while hearing a plea filed by AR Bachawat Trading Private Limited.

“Although the right to carry on business or trade is a fundamental right in the Constitution, that right is subject to the restrictions imposed by the government. As public health is an integral part of Article 21, the State is bound to protect the health of its citizens and if any tobacco product is found to be injurious to public health, the State can ban it,” the judge said.

Appearing for the company, senior counsel V Raghavachari sought the release of the goods seized by the Tiruvallur Food Safety and Drug Administration officer. Countering this, additional government pleader T Arunkumar submitted that the goods expired and could not be released because it was unfit for consumption.

“In the interest of the public, such expired goods cannot be allowed to be released since there is a possibility of misuse…,” he submitted.