Murli S. Deora v. Union of India [2001 SC]

The Fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, inter alia, provides that none shall be deprived of his life without due process of law. Then – why a non-smoker should be afflicted by various diseases including lung cancer or of heart, only because he is required to go to public places? Is it not indirectly depriving of his life without any process of law? The answer is obviously – ‘yes’.

Undisputedly, smoking is injurious to health and may affect the health of smokers but there is no reason that health of passive smokers should also be injuriously affected. In any case, there is no reason to compel non-smokers to be helpless victims of air pollution.

The statement of objects and reasons of the Cigarettes (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 1975, inter alia, provides, “Smoking of cigarettes is a harmful habit and, in course of time, can lead to grave health hazards.”

In the petition, it is pointed out that tobacco smoking contains harmful contents including nicotine, tar, potential carcinogens, carbon monoxide and smoke particles which are the cause of many diseases including cancer. According to WHO, in the last half century in developing countries alone smoking has killed more than sixty million people. Tobacco smoking also adds to air pollution. Besides cancer, tobacco smoking is responsible for various other fatal diseases to mankind.

It is submitted that statutory provisions are being made for prohibiting smoking in public places and the Bill introduced in Parliament is pending consideration before a Select Committee.

All counsels agree that considering the adverse effect of smoking in public places, it would be in the interests of citizens to prohibit smoking in public places till the statutory provision is made and implemented by the legislative enactment. Persons not indulging in smoking cannot be compelled to or subjected to passive smoking on account of acts of smokers.

Realising gravity of the situation and considering the adverse effect of smoking on smokers and passive smokers, we direct and prohibit smoking in public places and issue directions to the Union of India, State Governments as well as Union Territories to take effective steps to ensure prohibiting smoking in public places, namely:

  1. Auditoriums
  2. Hospital Buildings
  3. Health Institutions
  4. Educational Institutions
  5. Libraries
  6. Court Buildings
  7. Public Offices
  8. Public Conveyances, including Railways

Attorney General for India assured the court that Union of India shall take effective steps to give wide publicity to this order by electronic as well as print media to make the general public aware of this order of prohibition of smoking.