Saturday, December 2, 2023

Chhattisgarh High Court disposes of PIL seeking directions to ban surrogate advertisement of liquor on electronic and print media

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The Chhattisgarh High Court has disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), which sought directions to the respondent authorities to set up a regulatory or co-regulatory frameworks, to ban the surrogate advertisement of liquor on electronic and print media and to incorporate penal provisions, including criminal prosecution, if anyone violated such guidelines.

Brief facts of the case, are that the companies, who are engaged in manufacturing of products of liquor which are hazardous to the human beings, publishing various advertisement in print media, electronic media as also through sign boards and posters displaying their brands commonly known for brands of liquor, which is flagrant, blatant, bald and open defiance of statutory provisions of law.

The petitioner is a businessman and social worker of Bilaspur City in the State of Chhattisgarh and has grave concern about the health and wealth of a common citizen. 

The Counsel for the petitioner submits that the manufacturers of liquor are regularly advertising their brands suffixing names like ‘Bagpiper Club Soda’, ‘Hayward’s 5000 Soda’ and ‘Imperial Blue Music CD’s’ to promote consumption and sale of liquor by advertising it in electronic media, newspapers, magazines and various other platforms.

Learned counsel further submits that these companies also organise various shows like musical night, sport events etc. under the name of their well known brands of liquors which is in violation of the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995, Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003, Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) Code, The Prohibition of Publication or Telecast of Vulgar, Obscene and Surrogate Advertisements and Re-mix songs by Print and Electronic Media Bill, 2004 and The Surrogate Advertisements (Prohibition) Bill, 2016. 
The Counsel also submits that from the surrogate advertisements the location of the product is not apparent but consumers get an idea about that product shown in the advertisements.

Therefore, stringent law/rule may be enacted to curb such surrogate advertisements.

Ramakant Mishra, Deputy Solicitor General for Union of India has produced the copy of notification dated 25th February, 2021, issued by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, wherein Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, (for short ‘Rules, 2021) has been framed, and Section 10 of the said Rules provides the mechanism for redressal of grievance.   

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Ramesh Sinha and Justice Rajani Dubey noted from the record that there are various Acts to regulate such surrogate practice of liquor manufacturers and apart from this, the Rules, 2021, has also been notified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

Therefore, the petition is disposed of by the High Court with liberty to the petitioner to approach the authority concerned for redressal of his grievance, in accordance with the Rules, 2021.

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