“Cigarette smoking is the classy way to commit suicide”-Vonnegut
The case of Murli S. Deora v. Union of India[i] had a significant impact on passive smokers’ right to life. There was a time when smoking in public settings endangered the lives of individuals who did not smoke. The Hon’ble Supreme Court looked into the life of a non-smoker that is adversely affected by a person’s smoking in public areas, which unquestionably endangers the life of a non-smoker in those public places.
This was a civil writ petition filed in the Supreme Court of India in 1999, under Article 32 of the Constitution of India by Murli S. Deora in regards to prohibition of smoking in public places. The petition was heard by a two-judge bench consisting of M. B. Shah and R. P. Sethi.
In India, almost 800,000 people die each year as a result of tobacco (cigarette) smoking. Smoking in public locations in front of non-smokers can cause internal injuries such as lung cancer, asthma, and chronic bronchitis. As a result, smoking in public places is considered an offence because it kills the health of many passive smokers without their knowledge, so infringing on their right to enjoy a healthy life. In addition to the health implications, it has a negative impact on the environment. It pollutes the environment and contributes to the ecological sphere’s bad status.
- Whether smoking in public spaces violates a non-smoker’s right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution?
- Whether smoking has to be prohibited in public spaces?
The petitioner stated that tobacco contains toxic ingredients such as nicotine, tar, probable carcinogens, carbon monoxide, irritants, asphyxiates, and smoke particles, which are linked to a variety of ailments, including cancer. It is estimated that three million people die each year as a result of illnesses caused by tobacco smoking, with one million of them living in developing nations such as India. According to the World Health Organization, tobacco-related deaths might reach a staggering seven million each year. Tobacco smoking contributes to air pollution as well. Additionally, it was submitted that The Cigarettes (Regulation of Production, Supply, and Distribution) Act 1975 and The Cigarettes, and other products (Prohibition of Advertisement and do not provide for smoking bans in public areas. As a result, the petitioner requested that the court, in the public interest, prohibit smoking in public areas until statutory requirements are enacted and enforced, citing the negative effects of smoking in public places.
The Attorney General and counsel for the respondents also submitted that because of the negative effects of smoking, smoking in public spaces must be forbidden.
The Supreme Court ruled that passive smokers’ right to life is violated when they smoke in public settings. The Supreme Court, seeing the gravity of the situation and the harmful effects of smoking on smokers and passive smokers, issued an order prohibiting smoking in public areas. It also issued directions to the Union of India, State Governments, and Union Territories to take adequate measures to ensure that smoking is prohibited in public venues such as:
- Hospitals & Health Institutions
- Educational Institutions
- Public Office and Court buildings
This lawsuit concerns the environment and public health, both of which are harmed by cigarette smoking. Public health is crucial in promoting, restoring, or sustaining a country’s standing. The Supreme Court has begun to address the importance of health as a fundamental right. The Court has demonstrated that judges have great power to affect social change when they so wish, as demonstrated in the present case. Smoking is harmful to one’s health and has an impact on smokers’ health, but there is no reason why the health of passive smokers should be harmed as well. In any event, there is no reason why non-smokers should be forced to remain helpless victims of air pollution.
The Supreme Court has banned smoking in public places through a process known as “Judicial Activism.” The Judiciary, in turn, planted the germ for the restriction of smoking in public places. In this case, the judiciary played a key role in prohibiting smoking in public areas, which has resulted in a drop in annual deaths. It not only outlawed smoking in public places, but it also declared that the right to a healthy environment is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
- Rohan Hebbal, CASE BRIEF: Murli S. Deora Vs. Union of India (UOI) and Ors., Student of the bar, https://www.studentofthebar.com/post/case-brief-murli-s-deora-vs-union-of-india-uoi-and-ors-writ-petition-civil-316-of-1999
- Gaurav Tripathi, Murli s. Deora v. Union of India – A case study on legal consequences of tobacco consumption in public places, Blog iPleaders, https://blog.ipleaders.in/tobacco-consumption-in-public-places-is-a-crime/
- Prerna Singh, Murli Deora v. Union of India (Banning of Smoking in Public Places), Scribd, https://www.scribd.com/document/489946573/Murli-Deora-v-Union-of-India-Banning-of-smoking-in-public-places
- A. Sajida Meera Rumana, MURLI S. DEORA V. UNION OF INDIA AND OTHERS, SUPREMO AMICUS, Volume 8, https://supremoamicus.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/V8A1.pdf
[i] Murli S. Deora v. Union of India & Ors., Writ Petition (civil) 316 of 1999 / (2001) 8 SCC 765.
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