KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed on Wednesday the inspector-general of police (IGP) and the director of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s (KMC) anti-encroachment department to take immediate action against stalls selling gutka – a chewing form of tobacco highly hazardous to health – in the city.
A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Munib Akhtar, also directed the heads of the police force and KMC anti-encroachment cell to submit their reports regarding compliance with the court’s order by November 9.
The bench passed these directions while hearing a petition against the manufacturing and sale of gutka and mainpuri in the city. The petitioner, Muzammil Mumtaz, had taken the provincial police and health departments and the KMC authorities to the court for their alleged failure to take action against the manufacturing and sale of gutka and mainpuri.
The petitioner had contended that the two tobacco products, known to be seriously injurious to health, were being openly manufactured and sold in the city without any check by the authorities concerned. Requesting the court to order the authorities to take action against sale of gutka and mainpuri, Mumtaz argued that the respondents were duty-bound to stop such businesses that play with the health of the people.
On Wednesday, the petitioner informed the SHC that the courts had given directives to the authorities in the past to act against those involved in the manufacture and sale of gutka and mainpuri but the business was still going on. There were stalls illegally set up on footpaths all over the city, selling these products openly, Mumtaz said. He also alleged that gutka sale was continuing under the patronage of the local police.
The petitioner pleaded to the court that the ban on sale and manufacturing of these products could not be effectively enforced until removal of the stalls. He requested the court to direct the police and anti-encroachment departments to remove the illegal stalls.
In the meantime, a report on the action against the manufacturers and sellers of gutka and mainpuri was submitted before the court on behalf of the IG. The report stated that 200 cases were registered against persons allegedly involved in the gutka and mainpuri business. The judges, however, expressed their dissatisfaction over the report, observing that it failed to show any concrete action taken by the police.
The bench directed the IG and KMC anti-encroachment department director to take an immediate action against those selling gutka, mainpuri and other such tobacco products that were highly hazardous to the residents. The court also asked them to submit reports by November 9 regarding the implementation of the order.
Last week the IG informed the court that the existing law was insufficient to curb the manufacture and sale of gutka. The petitioner in that case, Rashid Khan, had sought a ban on the manufacture and sale of gutka
Filing his report on action against manufacturers and dealers of gutka, the IG informed the court that 147 cases had been registered and 212 suspects arrested by the police across the province.
However, he argued that the existing law was insufficient to curb this business in an effective manner. He argued that under the relevant sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) the accused could only be awarded a six-month imprisonment if found guilty of manufacturing, possessing or selling gutka.
The police chief explained that there was no separate law to curb the business of gutka and mainpuri in the province.
Heading the two-judge bench, Justice Akhtar observed that the matter involved in the petition was of a serious nature, as it related to the health of the public at large. He stated that no dereliction towards this issue could be tolerated.
The bench had directed the provincial law officer to submit a report as to what measures were being taken to curb the business, manufacture and sale of gutka and mainpuri in the province.