In the Matter of Sv. Rm. Ramanathan v. State For showing a cigarette in the movie Velaiyilla Pattathari posters, a criminal complaint was made against actor Dhanush, director Aishwarya Rajnikanth, and others. The petitioner said that the advertising encouraged smoking and lacked the disclaimer that was required by the COPTA Rules, 2004 for a minimum of 20 seconds. They were charged with breaking Section 5 of the COTPA, which is punished under Section 22.
Does the information in the complaint support the accusations that it violates Section 5 of the COTPA?
Analysis of Court Decision
The continuance of the criminal proceedings against the accused people would be a misuse of the legal system, according to the Madras High Court’s single-judge panel headed by Justice Anand Venkatesh. The Court so annulled the aforementioned criminal proceedings.
According to the Court, those who are actually or ostensibly involved in the production, supply, or distribution of tobacco goods are not allowed to promote them. This is in accordance with Section 5 of the COTPA. Additionally, it forbids anyone from signing agreements to encourage the use or consumption of certain items. The lawsuit claims that a conspicuously smoking main actor was depicted in the movie’s banner advertisements, which is outside the purview of Section 5 of the COTPA. The individual shown puffing on a cigarette had no affiliation with the company and was not endorsing any of their goods.
According to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, criminal acts might affect one’s life or individual liberties, hence the Court emphasised the necessity of applying a stringent interpretation to them. By taking into account the negative effects of tobacco products on society, particularly the younger generation, the court cannot broaden the scope of the provision. The complaint thought that the movie’s distributors and producers had put up posters showing the lead actor smoking, which would be against Section 5 of the COTPA. The court did point out that the producers and distributors in this case are involved in the movie industry and not the manufacturing or distribution of cigarettes or other tobacco products. It is essential to understand the difference between the provision and the complaint’s accusations.
The Court additionally observed that Rule 9 of the 2004 COPTA Rules prohibits showing any tobacco products or their use in any way in advertisements, posters, or other materials for films and television shows. The criminal complaint, on the other hand, was brought explicitly for a breach of Section 5 of the COTPA, not for the violation of any Rules. The Rules must be read in accordance with the requirements of the Act, it was further emphasised, and they cannot supersede or overrule the Act.
CASE NAME – Sv. Rm. Ramanathan v. State, Criminal Original Petition No. 15850 of 2022