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Type of Litigation: Action against Government to Advance the Public Interest

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Dutch Association of CAN v. Netherlands [Netherlands] [October 10, 2014]

The Netherlands is a Party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).  In 2008, the Netherlands enacted a ban on smoking in public places.  In 2011, the government added a limited exception for small cafes with a floor area less than 70 square meters and no staff.  A tobacco control organization challenged the small cafe exception as a violation of Article 8 of the FCTC, which requires FCTC Parties to prohibit smoking in all indoor public places. In this decision, the Supreme Court agreed with the lower court that law's small cafe exception violated the FCTC and was illegal. Significantly, the court found that smoke-free requirements of the FCTC were sufficiently detailed to be supreme over a contradictory national law and directly binding within the country.  

FIC Argentina v. Buenos Aires City Government [Argentina] [August 15, 2014]

A tobacco control NGO sued the Buenos Aires city government arguing that the lack of implementation of the local tobacco control law, with regards to smoke-free environments, violated the right to health. Furthermore, considering the violations of the law were higher in places like bars and night clubs, the NGO argued that workers in those places had lower standards of protection of their right to health. The judge rejected the lawsuit considering there was no illegal or arbitrary act from the local government. In addition, the judge stated that courts should not replace political decisions.

Doctors for You v. State of Bihar [India] [August 11, 2014]

Doctors for You, a non-governmental organization, sued the State of Bihar seeking implementation of various provisions of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA). In response to the petition, the court ordered that signs informing the public about the negative effects of tobacco be posted at all government primary, secondary, and post-secondary schools as soon as possible. Additionally, the court ordered the local police to create a monthly report about enforcement of the Act and submit the report to various government agencies.

S. Cyril Alexander v. Union of India [India] [August 08, 2014]

A public interest lawsuit requested that the government exclude tobacco companies from the Corporate Social Responsibility requirements under Indian law in order to prevent the companies from earning goodwill through direct and indirect advertising. The petitioner asked for the money that tobacco companies would have spent on a corporate social responsibility campaign instead be paid to the government for medical expenses for people with tobacco-related diseases and other tobacco control programs. The court directed the government to determine how tobacco companies can best meet their corporate social responsibility obligations. The court asked for appropriate action to be taken within four months of the decision and disposed the petition. 

Love Care Foundation v. Union of India [India] [July 21, 2014]

A non-governmental organization seeking to reduce smoking among Indian youths petitioned the Indian government to adopt plain packaging of tobacco products. The organization argued that attractive packaging is a form of advertisement and sought a rule prohibiting the use of logos, colors, or brand names on tobacco product packaging. After reviewing evidence supporting the impact of a tobacco plain packaging law in Australia and a study of plain packaging in Brazil, the court concluded that plain packaging and health warnings reduce the ability of attractive packaging to mislead consumers about the harms of smoking. The court urged the Indian government to consider the feasibility of implementing the plain packaging of cigarettes and other tobacco products as early as possible.

Dharmendra Kansal v. Union of India [India] [June 03, 2014]

A public interest lawsuit requested that cigarette manufacturers and the Indian government comply with the provisions of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) regarding tar and nicotine levels. Specifically, the law requires manufacturers to provide the tar and nicotine content of cigarettes on the label. The law also requires the government to set maximum permissible limits for tar and nicotine, which are also to be displayed on cigarette packs.  The court said that it did not have the power to compel the government to implement this provision of the law, even though the government had failed to set maximum tar and nicotine levels for cigarettes in the 11 years since the law was adopted. Instead, the court banned the sale of cigarettes in the State of Uttarakhand, effective one year after the date of the decision. The court said that the ban will not take effect if the government prescribes maximum nicotine and tar limits and manufacturers provide this information on their labels. Additionally, the court ordered that all loose cigarettes must be sold with the specified warning label on the cigarette or the packaging, effective six months from the date of the decision.

Dinar Yashwant Sohoni v. State of Maharashtra [India] [February 25, 2014]

A public interest lawsuit requested implementation of the rule requiring educational institutions to post a sign stating that cigarettes and other tobacco products may not be sold within a 100 yard radius of a school. The court found this requirement mandatory and ordered the state government’s Education Department to instruct all schools to implement the rule before the start of the 2014-2015 academic year.

The Libra India v. Union of India [India] [January 12, 2014]

A public interest organization sued the government asking it to prohibit the sale, manufacture, and storage of all forms of tobacco and to study the contents of cigarettes, beedis, and other products for smoking tobacco. The court took note of the extensive information submitted by the petitioner about the huge loss of life and impacts on health due to tobacco use. The court noted that although the petition had been filed nearly a year earlier, the government had not yet provided a response. The court ordered the government to respond to the petition within six weeks from the date of the decision. 

Ravishankar v. Union of India [India] [October 28, 2013]

A tobacco control advocate filed a lawsuit against various government agencies seeking full enforcement of India's omnibus tobacco control law and the rules promulgated to implement the law. The advocate did not allege any specific violations of the law. After receiving information from government agencies that they plan to take appropriate action to enforce the law against violators, the court disposed of the petition. The court noted that it is not appropriate to go directly to the court for enforcement of a law if law enforcement agencies are designated.

Cancer Society of New Zealand v. Ministry of Health [New Zealand] [September 30, 2013]

The New Zealand Ministry of Health inspected a portion of a casino complex and determined that it constituted an “open area” under the Smoke-free Environments Act. The Cancer Society of New Zealand and other organizations disagreed with the Ministry’s interpretation and asked the Court to review the issue. The Court found that the Ministry’s enforcement agents improperly relied on an “Open Areas Calculator” (a mathematical tool) in determining whether the space was substantially enclosed. The Court found that the Open Areas Calculator was inconsistent with the definition of an “open area” in the law. The Court ordered the Ministry to reconsider whether the area of the casino could allow smoking under the law. 

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