reported by, Salil Tiwari
Last Update: July 11, 2023, 2:56 PM IST
The Madras High Court on Monday dismissed a complaint filed in 2022 against the makers and actor of the 2014 film ‘Velaiyilla Pattathari’, popularly known as VIP.
The complainant had alleged that the accused violated the law by showing the lead actor Dhanush smoking a cigarette in the film’s poster.
There were allegations against Dhanush, director-producer Aishwarya Rajinikanth and other producers of the film that the smoking poster of the actor promoted the consumption of cigarettes, which is an offense under Section 5 of the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade) Act. Is. Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA). Also, there was no disclaimer regarding the use of tobacco in it.
A public interest litigation was filed in 2014 seeking action against the makers and actor Dhanush, setting up a committee to ascertain whether any violations had taken place.
In 2021, the State Level Monitoring Committee found that Section 5 of COTPA was violated and as a result, ordered a private complaint to be filed.
Thereafter, the accused persons moved the High Court seeking a direction to quash the complaint.
A single judge bench of Justice N Anand Venkatesh noted that Section 5 of the COTPA places a blanket ban on advertisement of cigarettes or any other tobacco products by “persons engaged or likely to be engaged in the production, supply or distribution of those products”. ,
Observing that the section is an implicatory section under penal law and therefore, it has to be strictly construed, Justice Venkatesh said, “The main thrust of the provision is to prohibit persons who produce, supply or sell cigarettes or The distribution of any other tobacco product by means of its advertisement”.
He insisted that in the present case, the only allegation was that the photograph of the lead actor was prominently found smoking on the advertisement banners of the film, but the producer or the actor was not involved in the tobacco business.
“The act cannot be brought under the purview of Section 5 of COTPA as the demonstration was not done by persons engaged in the production, supply or distribution of cigarettes…”, the judge said.
He said that the penal law should be strictly implemented and the court cannot be swayed by sentiments and popular beliefs.
“If the facts do not constitute an offence, the court may not attempt to expand the scope of the provision considering the adverse impact of tobacco or tobacco products on the society and particularly on the younger generation,” the judge said.
Accordingly, Justice Venkatesh held that continuation of criminal proceedings against the accused persons would amount to an abuse of the process of the court and hence set aside the same.