File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

Defending the Right to a Healthy Life: A Case Analysis of Murli S. Deora v. Union of India and the Landmark Ban on Public Smoking in India

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.

This landmark 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 [1].

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
Case No: Writ Petition No. 316 of 1999
Citation: AIR 2002 SC 40
Jurisdiction: Supreme Court of India
Case Decided On: November 2, 2001
Judges: 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. 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."
  2. 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."
  3. The legislation did not enact a ban on public smoking.

Hazardous impacts of Public Smoking:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The WHO has provided an estimate of seven million deaths annually from tobacco-related diseases.

Issues Raised In The Case:
  • 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 smoker.
  • Whether a ban be imposed on public smoking?
Judgement In Brief
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:
  • Auditoriums
  • Hospital Buildings
  • Health Institutions
  • Educational Institutions
  • Libraries
  • 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.
  1. 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 [2]. 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 [3]."

    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 [4]. 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.
  2. 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 [5]. 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 public place.

    This infringes upon the right to move across the territories of India as guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (d) [6]. 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.
  3. 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 [7]. 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 achieved.

    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.
  4. 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.

    To 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.
  5. 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.

    It was considered as a fundamental right in the case of Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation [8]. 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 [9].

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.

  • (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:

  • Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Gargi Pant
    Awarded certificate of Excellence
    Authentication No: JN403085685851-30-0124

Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers

Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Increased Age For Girls Marriage


It is hoped that the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which intends to inc...

Facade of Social Media


One may very easily get absorbed in the lives of others as one scrolls through a Facebook news ...

Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...


The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of t...

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India: A...


The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a concept that proposes the unification of personal laws across...

Role Of Artificial Intelligence In Legal...


Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing various sectors of the economy, and the legal i...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online

File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly