When it comes to enforcement against public smoking and the sale of tobacco products to children, the Hyderabad police appear to have a laid-back attitude, an RTI query has revealed. Legislations meant to empower the police to book such offenders remained unimplemented for over eight years as no cases or fines were levied under this offence, it further revealed.
The RTI query, filed by social worker Akshay Kumar, sought information on how many violators were booked and fined under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003 for public smoking and under the amended Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 for the sale of cigarettes to minors.
The questions were posed to all three police commissionerates within the Hyderabad. The response from all three commissionerates, however, reveal a dismal picture of enforcement.
In 2003, the Parliament enacted the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 2003 or the COTPA Act. A 2008 amendment to the Act brought in new rules prohibiting public smoking.
However, between 2008 and 2016, no fines or cases were booked under this Act within the Hyderabad, Cyberabad and the Rachakonda Commissionerates.
In 2017, the Hyderabad police booked 586 people for public smoking and collected a total amount of Rs 73,120 as fines from the offenders. The enforcement drive in Hyderabad increased in 2018 with 2,857 public smokers being booked and a total of Rs 3,01,867 being collected as fines. In 2019 (until September this year), the police booked 11,927 violators under COTPA for public smoking and collected Rs 15,34,682 as total fine, reveals the RTI.
While Rachakonda police began implementing the Act in 2017, the Cyberabad police started only in 2018.
Under section 77 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, sale of tobacco to minors is a punishable offence. The Act came into effect in 2015 but the Hyderabad police began implementing it only in 2017, when 135 violators were booked and a fine of Rs 21,850 was collected from them. In 2018, the police booked 216 violators and collected Rs 44,603 were collected as fine. In 2019, however, only 40 violators were booked and Rs 5,450 was collected as fines.
Under the Cyberabad and Rachakonda police limits, no violator was booked under the Act.
No active campaigning
‚ÄúEarlier this year, the Hyderabad police had started a ‚Äėno smoke zone‚Äô campaign near Charminar, which was a failure. They levied a fine of Rs 200 from an actor for public smoking as part of the publicity,‚ÄĚ says Akshay Kumar.
He later filed an RTI with the Charminar police with regard to the campaign, only to find that Rs 600 was spent for the no-smoking awareness campaign within the police station limits.
In the recent RTI, Akshay asked the three commissionerates if they had issued any instructions or guidelines to their respective police stations for no smoking awareness campaigns and to prevent the sale of tobacco at establishments within 100 meters of an educational institution. ‚ÄúOnly Cyberabad had issued some form of guidelines with respect to the sale of tobacco near schools and educational institutions. Rachakonda has not released any such guidelines and the Hyderabad commissionerate refused to reply,‚ÄĚ he added.
Akshay pointed out that placing ‚Äėno smoking area‚Äô or ‚Äėsmoking here is an offence‚Äô boards at public spaces should be followed as per the 2001 Supreme Court judgment in Murli S Deora Vs Union of India case. When asked why there are no signboards, the Hyderabad police stated that it is a matter pertaining to the Department of Health and Family Welfare. The Cyberabad police, on the other hand, said they do place such warning signage.
When the media pointed out the lack of enforcement against the sale of tobacco within 100 meters of schools and other educational institutions to the Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar at an annual press conference on Thursday, he responded by assuring a drive against such offenders. ‚ÄúThis is an area where more needs to be done. We will be taking up an enforcement drive against such offenders in the coming months,‚ÄĚ said the Commissioner.