New Delhi, September 24: : ITC Ltd, which has approached the Delhi High Court against the Centre's notification banning smoking in private offices, on Wednesday contended that the government has no power to take such a decision.
Senior Advocate Soli Sorabjee, appearing for the company contended that the Act under which the notification was issued has already been stayed by the Madras High Court.
"When the Act has already been stayed where is the question of framing rules under the law. The government need to have statutory power to frame rules. After the Madras High Court interim order staying the operation of the law, the government has no power under the law," he contended before a Bench headed by Justice Vikramjit Sen.
He submitted that the rule which bans smoking at work places is unjustified as it would include private offices like a lawyer's chamber and studio of an artist.
"Private office cannot be called a public place as these are not accessible to general public," he said while pleading that the government be directed not to take any coercive action against the company.
The Centre, however, opposed the plea saying that its petition challenging the Madras High Court order is to be heard by the Supreme Court on September 29. It submitted that ITC's petition be heard after the date.
The court then deferred the hearing of the case till September 30.
Besides ITC, two others petitioners, including Indian Hotels Association, have also moved separate pleas challenging the May 2008 notification issued by the Union Health Ministry.
The Counsel appearing for the association contended that under the present notification it would be difficult for them to organise candle-light dinners as the rule prohibits placing candles and match-boxes in public places.
"I would not be able to organise candle-night dinner. I cannot even place match boxes in the our premises in case of power break down," Senior Advocate Sandeep Sethi appearing for the association said.
It was also contended by the petitioners that under the present rule any private person can detain someone who smokes in offices and place him before a magistrate.
"This amounts to giving police power to private person to detain smokers. Under the law even a peon can detain the head of office and produce him before the Magistrate," Sethi contended.
The notification which would come into force on October 2, prohibits smoking in public places, which include private offices.
Under the curbs, those caught smoking in public places and other private organisations will be fined Rs 200 which may increase to Rs 1,000.