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Police cannot prosecute people possessing gutkha: Mumbai HC

The Mumbai  High Court on Friday held that police action under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, applied on people possessing and storing Gutkha was illegal, and under the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) only the food safety inspector had the powers to take action.

Sale/manufacture and storage of Gutkha has been banned in Maharashtra since 2013. A division bench of justice AV Nirgude and justice Indira K Jain, while quashing the criminal complaint against 21 people, said: “The food safety officers were not prohibited from proceedings against the applicants/petitioners under provisions of chapter X of the Food and Safety Standard (FSS) Act, 2006.”

Appearing for one of the petitioners, advocate Rahul Totala said: “The court has quashed police action under sections 372, 373, 188 and 328 of the Indian Penal Code, but not prohibited the Food Safety Inspectors from taking appropriate action.”

The accused had argued that as per the FSS Act, the authority can initiate police action. The court said: “By no stretch of imagination, manufacturing and possessing gutkha and pan masala would amount to administering poison.”

The court, while passing the order, also took into consideration that the authority had not carried out any analysis on the seized products. The bench said: “Therefore, it cannot be said that gutkha and pan masala are stupefying, intoxicating or unwholesome drug. Besides, offering these items of food would not amount to intention to cause hurt.”

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