J. Anbazhagan v. Union of India
J. Anbazhagan, a member of the legislative assembly in the State of Tamil Nadu, filed a writ petition to highlight the illegal manufacture and sale of gutka and pan masala in the state and to urge the High Court of Madras to order an independent investigation into the matter. Mr. Anbazhagan alleged such sales were carried out in collusion with several high dignitaries and bureaucrats, such as central excise officials, central government officials, officials from different state governments, including the Government of Tamil Nadu, councilors of the Chennai Corporation, and officials of the food safety department, among others. The Court observed that it was compelled to take up the case as the issues involved the right to health and directed that the Central Bureau of Investigation investigate the matter, since, among other reasons, central government officials allegedly were involved. In response to arguments made by the respondents, the Court also clarified that the definition of “food” under Section 3(j) of the Food Safety Act includes any substance, whether processed, partially processed or unprocessed, which is intended for human consumption and that the definition undoubtedly was wide enough to include gutka, and other forms of chewable tobacco/nicotine products intended for human consumption. The Court further clarified that India’s omnibus tobacco control law, COTPA, and the Food Safety Act were not in conflict, but were meant to be read in conjunction with each other as COTPA does not contain a non-obstante clause that excludes operation of other laws.