Rules restricting onscreen smoking scenes – notified by the ministry of health – can’t be set aside by the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B).
This has been conveyed by the law ministry in response to clarification sought from it, following disagreements between the health and the I&B ministries over implementation of the rules, which require running of anti-tobacco messages, scrolls and spots in movies with smoking scenes.
The health ministry had notified the rules on October 27 under the anti-tobacco Act.
Following this, the I&B ministry issued directives to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to defer implementation citing ‘practical difficulties’.
The matter was then referred to the law ministry. Since the notification has been issued under Section 31 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 2003, it can only be set aside or stayed by a competent court of law and not by mere administrative instructions or direction, a note by law ministry said.
The legislation is regarded as ‘validly made’ and is part of the law of the land until a court decides otherwise.
Therefore, all rules are presumed to be valid. The Health ministry officials said the two ministries were discussing the matter to reach a solution.
The ministry has written to the I&B ministry asking it to implement the rules. Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in Parliament said he had also written to CBFC and Advertising Standards Council of India for implementation of the rules and their monitoring.
He said the rules at present were being followed only to a limited extent. The two ministries were trying to minimise practical difficulties faced by the industry to ensure complete implementation of rules. The two ministries have been at loggerheads over the rules.
The I&B ministry has been accused of favouring the film industry over the health of people. Earlier, a note sent to the health ministry by the I&B ministry made it appear that the ministry was never in favour of regulating scenes showing any form of tobacco use in movies.
The I&B ministry states that the health ministry’s decision to come out with a notification was taken despite the I&B ministry’s advice to the contrary.