Supreme Court Dismisses Challenge To Actor Dhanush’s Relief In Poster Case

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Supreme Court Dismisses Challenge To Actor Dhanush's Relief In Poster Case

The plea had challenged the July 10, 2023 order of the Madras High Court. (File)

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to interfere with a Madras High Court order quashing criminal proceedings against actor Dhanush and others for the posters of the 2014 Tamil film ‘Velaiyilla Pattathari’ that showed the actor smoking a cigarette.

A private complaint had been filed in the matter alleging that the advertisement had directly or indirectly suggested or promoted the use or consumption of cigarettes.

The plea, challenging the July 10 last year order of the high court, came up for hearing before a bench of justices A S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan.

“After having perused the copies of the advertisements, we are of the view that sub-section (1) of section 5 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 was not applicable in this case. Hence, the Special Leave Petition is dismissed,” the bench said in its order.

The complainant had alleged that the accused had committed an offence under the provision of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) (COPTA) Act, 2003.

In its order, the high court had said a penal statute has to be strictly construed since the consequence of an action taken under the statute will touch upon the life or personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

“Hence, the court cannot be swayed by emotions and popular beliefs and the court has to necessarily construe the provisions strictly and see if the facts of the case make out an offence.

“If the facts do not constitute an offence, the court cannot try to expand the scope of the provision by considering the adverse impact that a tobacco or tobacco product can have on the society and particularly the younger generation,” the high court had said.

It had said the complainant seemed to have been under the impression that since the producers and distributors of the movie were engaged in erecting banners/posters with the lead actor shown to have been smoking, the same would constitute an offence under section 5 of the COTPA.

“The producers and the distributors in the present case are engaged in the movie business and are not engaged in the business of cigarettes or other tobacco products.

“This vital distinction between what has been stated in the provision and what comes out of the allegations made in the complaint makes all the difference,” it had said, adding that continuation of criminal proceedings would amount to an “abuse of process of court”.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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