A Public Interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Bombay High Court which challenges the huge amount of investment made by public sector undertakings in ITC, a cigarette manufacturer. The PIL has questioned the government owned insurance companies and their investment in ITC.
The petition wants the Government of India to direct the public sector undertakings to divest their shareholding from the tobacco manufacturing firms and not make such investments in the future. In addition, the petition prays, that the Government, as well as the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, be directed to frame guidelines to ensure that such disinvestment takes place and such investments are prevented in the future.
Through this petition we are drawing the attention of this Hon’ble Court to the above-mentioned oversight and violations, and pray for urgent ameliorative and remedial measures in that regard, said the petition.
The PIL further states, Government of India has long had an outlook leaning towards tobacco control. India is a signatory to WHO’s most comprehensive anti-tobacco convention, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, 2003 (FCTC). As per Article 5.3 of the convention, the parties must create, implement and protect policies for tobacco control. Further, and more importantly in this context, Article 7.2 of the convention restrains parties from investing in the tobacco industry in order not to promote the cultivation and production of tobacco.
The Petition says, while on one hand, the government is committed to tackling the problem of tobacco and the ill-effects caused by it, the insurance companies, in complete disregard to the government’s policy, continue to invest in ITC, the acts are in violation of Article 21 and 47 of the Constitution of India and against the Government of India’s National Tobacco Control Program (NTCP).
The petition is filed by top officials of Tata Trusts, along with doctors of Tata Memorial Hospital and few individuals.
Petition says in India, there are 27.5 crore tobacco users; every third Indian adult uses some form of tobacco. Tobacco kills every third tobacco user prematurely through cancer, heart attack, lung diseases and stroke. A smoker loses 8 years of his life due to this addiction. Tobacco is responsible for nearly 50% cancers in India and 90% of mouth cancer patients die within 12 months of diagnosis.
As per WHO, tobacco addiction is a disease. Therefore, every third adult Indian is suffering from a serious disease. About 10 lakh Indians die from tobacco-related diseases each year in India.