Delhi High Court Upholds Larger Health Warnings on Pan Masala Packets

The Delhi High Court has dismissed a petition challenging the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) regulation mandating 50% health warnings on pan masala packets, upholding the government’s move to increase awareness about the health risks associated with pan masala consumption.


Dharampal Satyapal Limited, a manufacturer of pan masala brands like Rajnigandha, challenged the FSSAI’s regulation that increased the size of statutory health warnings on pan masala packets from 3mm to 50% of the front-of-pack label. The regulation was introduced through the Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Second Amendment Regulations, 2022.

Key Legal Issues and Court’s Decision:

1. Procedural Compliance:

The court rejected the petitioners’ claim that FSSAI did not follow proper procedures in framing the regulation. It found that FSSAI had conducted thorough consultations with scientific panels and committees, considered expert studies, and followed a transparent public consultation process before notifying the regulation[1].

2. Scientific Basis:

The court dismissed arguments about the lack of recent scientific studies, noting that the regulation was based on scientific opinions from 2015-2018, which remained valid. It cited the classification of areca nut (a key ingredient in pan masala) as a Group-1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

3. Public Health vs. Private Interest:

The court emphasized that public health concerns outweigh private business interests. It stated: “The harm and deleterious effects of Pan Masala have already been judicially noticed by the Supreme Court”.

4. Proportionality:

The court found the 50% warning size to be proportionate, considering the health risks involved. It referenced international practices, including the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which recommends large health warnings on tobacco products.

5. Discrimination Claim:

The petitioners’ argument that the regulation was discriminatory because alcohol products still carry 3mm warnings was rejected. The court cited the principle of “no negative equality” and noted that FSSAI was considering increasing warning sizes for alcohol as well.

Important Observations:

The court strongly emphasized the primacy of public health:

“The Petitioners’ challenge to the impugned Regulation seems to be driven by its self-interest in safeguarding the sale of its Pan Masala brands, which might be affected if they comply with the impugned Regulation”.

On the necessity of larger warnings, the court noted:

“Well-designed health warnings and messages are part of a range of effective measures to communicate health risks and to reduce tobacco use. Evidence demonstrates that the effectiveness of health warnings and messages increases with their prominence”.

Case Details:

– Case: W.P.(C) 4470/2023 & CM APPL. 17145/2023

– Petitioners: Dharampal Satyapal Limited and Another

– Respondents: Union of India through Secretary and FSSAI

– Judges: Acting Chief Justice and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora

– Lawyers: C.S. Vaidyanathan and Vivek Kohli (for petitioners), Anurag Ahluwalia (for Union of India), Aditya Singla (for FSSAI)

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