Health for Millions Trust v. Union of India
Using the powers conferred by India’s omnibus tobacco control law, the government introduced new graphic health warnings in October 2014 that, among other things, increased the graphic health warning size from 40 percent of one side to 85 percent of both sides of tobacco product packaging and amended the rotation scheme of the warnings. The Karnataka Beedi Industry Association, the Tobacco Institute of India, and other pro-tobacco entities challenged the validity of the 2014 pack warning rules in five cases in the Karnataka High Court – Bengaluru, and the court initially stayed the implementation of the warnings via interim orders. Following a petition by tobacco control advocates, the court lifted the stays, and a division bench of the court affirmed the decision on appeal. The association and others challenged this ruling in the Supreme Court. Paving the way for immediate implementation of the warnings, the Supreme Court, on May 4, 2016, directed that the matter be decided within six weeks in the Karnataka High Court by a bench constituted by the Karnataka Chief Justice and that any stays of the warnings in other high courts not be given effect until the conclusion of the matter. After months of hearings, a two judge bench of the Karnataka High Court struck down the 2014 rules, and the Government and public health groups appealed the matter to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court stayed implementation of the Karnataka High Court order and set final disposal of the matter for March 12, 2018. The Court stated: "[W]e are inclined to think that health of a citizen has primacy and he or she should be aware of that which can affect or deteriorate the condition of health. We may hasten to add that deterioration may be a milder word and, therefore, in all possibility the expression ‘destruction of health’ is apposite." India’s 85% graphic health warning rules accordingly remain in effect for now.