In the case of ‘Murli S. deora v. Union of India (2001)’, a petition came before the Supreme Court to prohibit smoking in public places.
In the petition, it was pointed out that tobacco smoking contains harmful contents including nicotine, tar, potential carcinogens, carbon monoxide, irritants, asphyxiates and smoke particles which are the cause of many diseases including the cancer. It was alleged that three million people die every year as a result of illness related to the use of tobacco products of which one million people belong to developing countries like India.
The World Health Organisation was stated to have estimated that tobacco related deaths can rise to a whopping seven million per year. According to this organisation, in the last half century in the developing countries alone smoking has killed more than sixty million people. Tobacco smoking also adds to the air pollution. Besides cancer, tobacco smoking is responsible for various other fatal diseases to the mankind.
Considering the petition, the Supreme Court observed that Fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of 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.
Realising the gravity of the situation and considering the adverse effect of smoking on smokers and passive smokers, the supreme court directed and prohibit smoking in public places and issue directions to the Union of India, State Goverments as well as the Union Territories to take effective steps to ensure prohibiting smoking in public places, namely:
2. Hospital Buidings
3. Health Institutions
4. Educational Institutions
6. Court Buildings
7. Public Office
8. Public Conveyances, including Railways.
Murli S. Deora v. Union of India (2001)