New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued contempt notice to the Managing Director of Dharampal Satyapal group of companies, makers of two popular brands of tobacco, for allegedly defying its order banning use of plastic sachets for sale of their products.
A bench of justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly also asked the Centre to ensure total compliance of its December 2010 order "in letter and spirit".
The bench asked Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium to file an affidavit on the compliance so far carried out by the states/Union Territories.
The contempt notice was issued for defying the order banning use of plastic sachets.
The bench passed the direction on a fresh application moved by an NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), complaining that the manufacturers of the gutka pan masala - Rajnigandha and Tulsi - in brazen violation of the apex court order continue to sell the products in plastic sachets.
It sought contempt action against Rajeev Kumar, Managing Director of Dharampal Satyapal group, for selling tobacco product in plastic cover in violation of the apex court order.
Counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, alleged that the company in a bid to circumvent the apex court's directions against sale of the products in plastic pouches was deliberately marking the sale as "only for export" though it is being sold within the country.
He pointed out that even though the products are marked as for exports, the sale price was marked as Rs 6 in Indian currency, indicating that it was for domestic sale.
"Dharampal Satyapal group, whose turnover runs into thousands of crores of rupees and which manufactures big brands like Rajnigandha and Tulsi is packing its products in plastic material even after March 1," the NGO submitted.
The petitioner also annexed some samples of tobacco product with its petition.
"This, prima facie, amounts to a serious violation of court's order and thus constitutes a contempt of court. This violation by such a big group could not have been done without the tacit understanding with the enforcement agencies that no action would be taken against the business group," the PIL petition said.
The NGO also sought contempt action against Ministry of Environment and Forests Secretary.
In a blow to gutkha and pan masala manufacturers, the Supreme Court had in December last imposed a ban on the use of plastic in packaging of tobacco products and set March 1 as the deadline within which the tobacco manufacturers need to implement its order.
The Supreme Court ruling had come in midst of reports that more than five million children under the age of 15 years in India suffer from various forms of mouth cancers, which is mainly attributed to the unregulated consumption of gutkha.
In states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, more than 16 per cent mouth cancer patients are children.