This is a case analysis of Murli S. Deora v. Union of India
which stipulated a
ban on public smoking all over India to uphold and recognize the right to a
healthy life enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution. This case
highlights the right to the healthy life of passive smokers who are not
consenting to smoke but because of public smoking are still exposed to an
environment where they have no choice but to inhale the smoke.
judgment in the field of Indian environmental jurisprudence recognised the
rights of passive smokers It also becomes essential in curbing smoking which has
increased the numbers of smokers due to the addictive nature of tobacco smoking.
According to WHO, Tobacco used in Cigarettes and Bidis is one of the major risk
factors for chronic lung and cardiovascular disease .
The principle of a
reasonable restriction on personal liberty in at public place based on public
health was upheld. The Supreme Court with the help of this case enlarged the
spectrum of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Primary Details Of The Case
Writ Petition No. 316 of 1999
AIR 2002 SC 40
Supreme Court of India
Case Decided On:
November 2, 2001
Justice M.B. Shah, Justice R. P Sethi
Legal Provisions Involved:
Articles 21 of the Indian Constitution
Brief Facts Of The Case
PIL Filed by Murli S. Deora:
- The case was filed in the form of Public Interest Litigation under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution in the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India by the petitioner, Murli S. Deora, a famous and well-known activist of human rights.
- The petition was intended to bring about a ban on tobacco smoking at public places which is adversely affecting the health of the citizens.
Lack of adequate legislation to uphold the right to a healthy life:
- The petitioner references the credible source of Cigarettes (Regulation of Production, Supply, and Distribution) Act, 1975, which provides in its objects "Researches carried out in various parts of the world have confirmed that there is a relationship between the smoking of cigarettes and lung cancer, chronic bronchitis; certain diseases of the heart and arteries; cancer of the bladder, prostrate, mouth pharynx and esophagus; peptic ulcer, etc."
- The Petitioner also referred to the objects of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Bill, 2001, stating "Tobacco is universally regarded as one of the major public health hazards and is responsible directly or indirectly for an estimated eight lakh deaths annually in the country."
- The legislation did not enact a ban on public smoking.
Hazardous impacts of Public Smoking:
Issues Raised In The Case:
- Tobacco smoking has harmful contents including "nicotine, tar, potential carcinogens, carbon monoxide, irritants, asphyxiates and smoke particles which are the cause of many diseases including cancer." It also adds to the air pollution.
- It has also been discovered that diseases due to tobacco have resulted in the loss of productivity of approximately Rs. 13,500 crores per year in India alone.
- The WHO has provided an estimate of seven million deaths annually from tobacco-related diseases.
Judgement In Brief
- Whether the act of public smoking infringes upon the right to life
provided under Article 21 of a person who does not smoke or is a passive
- Whether a ban be imposed on public smoking?
The division bench in this case upheld the grievous impact of smoking tobacco in
public places and imposed a ban on smoking in public places and directed the
Union and State government to implement the ban and prohibit smoking in the
places as specified in this case namely:
- Hospital Buildings
- Health Institutions
- Educational Institutions
- Court Buildings
- Public Offices
- Public Conveyances (inclusive of Railways)
The bench also clarified that the judgment was given to protect both the smokers
and the passive smokers from the harmful effects of tobacco smoking.
- Right to a Healthy Environment is infringed due to public smoking
This case is a prime example of judicial activism where the court has provided a
final and binding guideline under Article 141 of the Indian Constitution in
respect to a ban on public smoking . The decision was provided due to the
interpretation of Article 21 which states, "cannot deprive of life and personal
liberty without procedure established by law ."
And as the passive smokers
are deprived of their lives without any procedure it is ultimately infringing
upon their right to life. This case affirmed the right to a healthy life as a
fundamental right which was earlier upheld by the case of Subhash Kumar v. State
of Bihar, 1991 . If a ban on public smoking would not have been imposed, it
would have affirmatively impacted the healthy environment of the citizens.
Public smoking also added to the air pollution which can then cause breathing
and lung problems in individuals.
As the air pollution does not impact the
person who is smoking it impacts a person who is not consenting to smoke but is
still subject to the air that is being polluted by the tobacco smoke. By the
42nd amendment of the Indian Constitution, Articles 48A in the Directive
Principles of State's Policy and 51A(g) of the fundamental duties have led a
strive to make it the duty on behalf of both the State and the Individuals.
- Right to movement is infringed due to public smoking
The case also upholds the right to movement which is included in personal
liberty as ascertained in the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India . Due
to public smoking generally passive smokers will be restricted in their movement
as they will generally try to avoid the place where the smokers are smoking the
This infringes upon the right to move across the territories of
India as guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (d) . There are reasonable
restrictions to restrict a citizen from moving freely within the Indian
territories but in the case of public tobacco smoking individuals do not fall
under any of the reasonable restrictions.
- Golden Triangle rule is infringed due to public smoking
The case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India established the golden triangle rule
which state that when there is an infringement of Article 21 it will
automatically infringe Articles 14 and 19. The case of Murli S. Deora is based
on the foundations of the right to life enshrined under Article 21 being grossly
infringed by the public tobacco smoking.
This means that public smoking will also infringe on Article 14. Article 14 of
the Indian Constitution is a fundamental right as provided in the case of Indira
Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain & Anr . The principle of equality infringed in the
above case is reasonable discrimination. The principle of intelligible
differentia states that to achieve a certain objective the State can reasonably
discriminate among the individuals. But in the case of public smoking, this
exception cannot be applied. Passive smokers are not reasonably discriminated
against as they are deprived of a healthy environment without any object being
The third tenet of the Golden Triangle rule is Article 19 which provides
different freedoms to a citizen of India. The freedom to move in a healthy
environment is restricted from public smoking.
- Conflict between the Right to Personal Liberty of one individual
infringing on the right to life of the other due to a ban on public smoking
The judgment of Murli S. Deora imposed a ban on public smoking. This infringes
upon the personal liberty of the smokers to enjoy the consumption of tobacco
smoking. It is to be noted that the rights should be enjoyed in such a way that
it does not infringe upon any right of another individual. But in the case of
public smoking, exercising their right to personal liberty infringes upon the
right to life of other individuals.
This is the reason why a ban can be imposed
on the public smoking. The right to life is a sacrosanct fundamental right of
the individuals which is not only enshrined in the grunt norm of India i.e. The
Constitution but also in the International Covenants including the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, (UDHR). As the right to life weighs significantly more than the
right to personal liberty of the smokers, the ban can be imposed on public
smoking of tobacco.
It is to be noted that the liberty mentioned in Article 21 is of personal type.
This type of liberty cannot be exercised in public. So, if a ban on public
smoking is imposed it will not infringe on the personal liberty of an
individual. The smokers can enjoy their liberty without directly impacting the
right to life of the passive smokers.
The right to life here refers to the right to life of both smokers and
non-smokers. Smoking results in lung problems, tar being deposited in the lungs
causing cancer, breathing problems, and ultimately death due to these diseases.
The ban will help in prohibiting the use of smoking in public which can
consequently lead to the reduction in the frequency of smoking of a person.
uphold the right to life of both the smokers and passive smokers rather than the
right to personal liberty of only the smokers, the ban was imposed by the Murli
S. Deora judgment. This ban imposed by the case is stipulated on the principle
of Utilitarianism propounded by Jeremy Bentham which states that the law or an
act of the sovereign should be such that it provides maximum pleasure to a
maximum number of people.
- Conflict between the right to livelihood and right to life due to the
ban on public smoking
The case also experienced a tussle between the right to livelihood of an
individual employed in the Bidi and Cigarette industries using tobacco and the
right to life and healthy environment of the individuals who are the victims of
the consumption of the hazardous tobacco smoke either actively or passively. The
right to livelihood is interpreted as an essential part of the right to life.
was considered as a fundamental right in the case of Olga Tellis v. Bombay
Municipal Corporation . A ban on public smoking will lead to a reduction in
the demand for smoke, which means that there is less requirement of products
which in turn means a lesser number of people required to produce the cigarettes
and bidis. This will lead to high unemployment in the tobacco industry. As
livelihood is the only way to sustain a dignified human life it will result in
loss of human dignity.
On the other hand, if a ban were not to be imposed, this would lead to the
infringement of the right to life of the individuals. Another aspect of the
infringement of the right to life is working in hazardous industries of tobacco.
According to a Government report, 4.16 million people are involved in bidi
industries, and it is also stated that the adverse impact of tobacco smoking is
not only related to the smokers but also impacts the ones who are involved in
the manufacturing process of bidi .
Due to the addictive nature of tobacco,
the demand increases which requires more people to work in the hazardous
industries. The ban will help in reducing the risk to the tobacco industry's
workers and the smokers and passive smokers.
It is important to note that the
ban is on smoking in public places, people can still smoke in private areas.
Based on the greater good of a greater number of people, the right to life of a
greater number of people is infringed rather than the right to livelihood in a
hazardous industry. The ban imposed by Murli S. Deora was not superficially
imposed but with an understanding of the in-depth consequences and the
deep-rooted adverse impact of the tobacco smoking industries.
The case of Murli S. Deora is a prime example of the judiciary using its
judicial activism to provide immediate relief to a situation in which any law is
not enacted for the time being. This power to provide guidelines on a particular
issue is furnished under Article 141 of the Indian Constitution.
There have been
so many guidelines provided by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India including: -
the Vishakha Guidelines which led to the creation of the POSH Act, Gaurav Jain
Guidelines which provided regulations for the welfare of the children of
Prostitutes. The case of Murli S. Deora plays a significant role in
understanding the issue related to the health of the environment and that harm
to the environment is ultimately harmful to all living beings. The case has
broadened the horizon of Article 21 by banning public smoking in recognition of
the right to a healthy life and environment for individuals.
- www.who.int. (n.d.). Tobacco.
- Art. 141, The Constitution of India 1950.
- Art. 21, The Constitution of India 1950.
- Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar AIR 1991 SC 420.
- Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India 1978 AIR 597.
- Art. 19 (1) (d), The Constitution of India 1950.
- Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain & Anr. AIR 1975 SC 2299.
- Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation 1985 SCC (3) 545.
- Arora, M., Datta, P., Barman, A., Sinha, P., Munish, V.G., Bahl, D., Bhaumik, S., Nazar, G.P. and Tullu, F. (2020). The Indian Bidi Industry: Trends in Employment and Wage Differentials. Frontiers in Public Health, 8. doi: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2020.572638.
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Gargi Pant
Authentication No: JN403085685851-30-0124