BOMBAY HIGH COURT
Criminal Revision Application No. 34/2008. D/d. 30.7.2010.
National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication(NOTE) - Petitioner
Keshu Ramsay, Maharaja Surajmal & Ors - Respondents
For the Petitioner :- Mr. V.P. Thali, Advocate.
For the Respondent :- Mr. S. Sapeco, Mr. J. Vaz and Mr. C. A. Ferreira, Public Prosecutor.
Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003, Sections 5 and 22 - Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, Section
Cases Referred :1. James Marshall v. BBC, (1979) 3 ALL ER 80.
2. Smt. Nagawwa v. Veeranna Shivalingappa Konjalgi, AIR 1976 (3) SCC 736.
N.A. Britto, J. - This revision petition, is directed against the judgment/ order dated 26.3.2008 of the learned Sessions Judge, Panaji, by which the learned Sessions Judge has quashed the process issued against accused Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5 in criminal case No. 89/06/D. The Petitioner is the complainant in the said case. The respondents herein are the accused and shall hereinafter be referred to as such.
2. The complaint was in fact filed by the General Secretary of the complainant. The complainant claims to be a registered society, registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. The complainant claims that its objective is to create a tobacco-free society by (i) preventing non users to tobacco, particularly children, adolescents and young adults from taking to the tobacco habit, (ii) stopping the use of tobacco amongst those who have the habit and (iii) complete eradication of tobacco and tobacco products, and the complainant is seriously concerned to see that the Cigarettes and other tobacco products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution ) Act, 2003 ( "the Act" for short) is not breached.
3. The grievance of the complainant is regarding a hoarding or billboard which was erected by the side of the NH-17 within the jurisdiction of JMFC, Panaji. The said hoarding showed a clip from a movie named "Family" in which accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan is potrayed as a Don smoking a cigar. There is the logo of Accused No. 3 M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited on the top right corner and the following words written in the left-hand corner; "All the powers on earth could not change his family's destiny...." The words "Family" is written in bold letters and below it there is "ties of blood" and below that " Meri family Mein Hai" and still below that there are words written "Anchor team dependable" and below that there are switches, wires, MCB's etc. depicted, presumably manufactured by respondent No. 3 M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited. A photograph of the said hoarding was produced before this Court. It does not require a discerning eye to say that it is an advertisement to advertise electrical appliances of said accused No. 3 M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited. In other words the said hoarding showed accused No. 5 Amitach Bachchan endorsing electrical appliances of accused No. 3 M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited as stated by the complainant himself. The said hoarding remained at that place from 25.12.2005 till 1.1.2006.
4. For a change let us first look at the provisions of law, first. The Act came into force w.e.f. 25.2.2004. Section 5 with which we are much concerned was brought into force w.e.f. 25.2.2004. The main object of the Act was to provide for comprehensive legislation to prohibit advertising and regulation of production, supply and distribution of cigarettes and tobacco products. The Act is meant to put a total ban on advertising of cigarettes and other tobacco products and to prohibit sponsorship of sports and cultural events either directly or indirectly as well as sale of tobacco product to minors.
5. Section 3(a) of the Act defines expression "advertisement" to include any visible representation by way of notice, circular, label, wrapper or other documents and also includes any announcement made orally or by any means of producing or transmitting light, sound, smoke or gas. Section 5 deals with prohibition of advertisement of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Sub- section (1) of Section 5, could be read in three parts, and it is as follows;
- (1) No person engaged in, or purported to be engaged in, the production, supply or distribution of cigarettes or any other tobacco products shall advertise and no person having control over a medium shall cause to be advertised cigarettes or any other tobacco products through that medium and no person shall take part in any advertisement which directly or indirectly suggests or promotes the use or consumption of cigarettes or any other tobacco products.
- (2) No person, for any direct or indirect pecuniary benefit, shall -
- (a) display, cause to display or permit or authorise to display any advertisement of cigarettes or any other tobacco product; or
- (b) .....
- (c) .......
- (d) ...........
- Provided that this sub section shall not apply in relation to -
- (a) an advertisement of cigarettes or any other tobacco product in or on a package containing cigarettes or any other tobacco product;
- (b) .......
- (3) No person shall, under a contract or otherwise promote or agree to promote the use or consumption of -
- (a) cigarettes or any other tobacco product, or
- (b) any trade mark or brand name of cigarettes or any other tobacco product in exchange for a sponsorship, gift, price or scholarship given or agreed to be given by another person.
- (a) in the case of first conviction, with imprisonment for a term which may extend two years or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both, and
- (b) in the case second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees.
- (i) the use of a name or brand of tobacco products for marketing, promoting or advertising of other goods, services and events,
- (ii) marketing of tobacco products with the aid of a brand name or trade mark which is known as, or in use as, a name or brand or brand for other goods and services;
- (iii) the use of particular colours and layout and/ or presentation those are associated with particular tobacco products; and
- (iv) the use of tobacco products and smoking situations when advertising the goods and services ( Emphasis supplied).
9. A separate legal notice was also addressed to him (accused No. 5) dated 5.1.2006. Accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan wrote back to General Secretary of the complainant in his letter dated 9.1.2006 in which he stated that he was not instrumental in designing the publicity campaign but he found from the photograph of the billboard that the manufacturer of Anchor switches are seeking to promote their own products. Neither Accused No. 4 AB Corporation Limited nor he, Accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan, had promoted Anchor products or tobacco products and that M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited(Accused No. 3) appeared to have taken undue liberty while using the still from the film "Family" carrying his image, and insertion of the slogan "Meri Family Mein Hai" to promote their products, and further accused No. 5-Amitabh Bachchan stated that M/s DMS Films Pvt. Ltd., accused No. 2, the co-producer was exclusively handling the publicity of the film and had entered into some arrangements with Anchor( accused No. 3) to share publicity costs in consideration of which M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited (accused No. 3) would be entitled to promote their products on the same banner. M/s AB Corporation Limited ( accused No. 4) was not party to this arrangement. Neither M/s AB Corporation Limited nor he was aware of the banner. Accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan informed that he had taken notice of Anti-Tobacco Legislation and had informed his producers and told them to take immediate steps so that no such violation would take place as far as he was concerned. The legal notice was also replied to by reply dated 11.1.2006 in which the complainant was informed that the billboard was part of the publicity of the film undertaken by DMS films Private Limited (accused No. 2), who was exclusively responsible for the publicity of the film though M/s AB Corporation ( accused No. 4) is a co-producer of the film of which Accused No. 5 was the chairman and neither his client ( accused No. 5) nor M/s AB Corporation Limited ( accused No. 4) had any intention of violating the Act, it was mentioned that the picture of Accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan smoking a cigar was very much a part of the film which was duly censored by the Central Board of Film Certification and was granted a U/A certificate. Complainant was informed that accused No. 5 believed that the ban of depicting smoking in films would be effective from March 2006 as reported in the media and the portion of the films depicting the scene was initially shot when the initial ban was to come into effect in October, 2005 and this was communicated by M/s DMS Films Private Limited( accused No. 2) to Central Board of Film Certification. It was further mentioned that accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan had not at any time endorsed electrical appliances of M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited( accused No. 3) or any other product of Anchor. It was stated that " Meri family mein hai" was not authorised by him nor was part of the script and that was entirely creation of the Anchor without approval of accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan. It was also stated that the advertisement was not for any tobacco product but formed part of promotion of the film. That the co-producer of the film M/s DMS Film Private Limited ( accused No. 2) were exclusively entitled to have made arrangements to make the publicity of the film and has taken full responsibility of the hoarding and have since taken steps to remove the same.
10. Accused No. 2 also wrote to the complainant by letter dated 12.1.2006 informing about the phone call received from accused No. 5 regarding complainant's objection. The complainant was informed that they as co- producers of the film were responsible for publicity of the film, and they have entered into arrangements with M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited through Intech International, Mumbai to publicise the film. They had no intention of advertising or promoting tobacco products nor were they advertising or promoting tobacco products through the film. The complainant sent a reply dated 18.1.2006 to accused No.1 Keshu Ramsay, director of accused No. 2 M/s DMS Films Private Limited and in this reply on behalf of the complainant, it was mentioned that he appeared to be the real culprit who was playing in the hands of pro-tobacco lobby and to further their interest have used an unwitting Mr. Bachchan.
11. The Complainant then filed the complaint and examined its managing director Dr. Shekhar Salkar. The complainant produced correspondence exchanged as part of this complaint. Learned JMFC, by order dated 17.11.2006 ordered issuance of process. Accused No. 3 M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited has not challenged the order. M/s Intech International have not been made a party. The remaining accused namely accused Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5 filed revisions application which came to be disposed of by learned Sessions Judge by order impugned herein.
12. Learned Session Judge, in allowing the revisions, inter alia, observed that all the correspondence relied upon by the complainant did not show that the accused No. 4 M/s AB Corporation Limtied and accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan had knowledge about the billboard or hoarding nor had any intention that the picture of accused No. 5 with a cigar in his hand and in his mouth would be used for advertisement of M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited. The learned Sessions Judge observed that the billboard, the complaint and the correspondence at the most shows a reasonable suspicion against accused No. 3 M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited who have otherwise not challenged the impugned Order. Learned Sessions Judge, further observed that the accused Nos. 1 and 2 specifically stated in their letter that they had only permitted M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited to advertise their products on the film poster, and merely because at the end of the letter accused Nos. 1 and 2 regretted (DMS) putting up the billboard in the present form and said that they have taken action for removal of billboard, that did not create any iota of evidence to show that the accused Nos. 1 and 2 committed offence under section 5 of the Central Act. Learned Sessions Judge, further observed that correspondence produced by the complainant was not sufficient to reveal prima facie or to raise reasonable strong suspicion against accused Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5 and ultimately came to the conclusion that none of the accused persons were the manufactures of the cigarettes. The name of the individual, firm or company who manufactured the said cigar was not known. The accused No. 1, 2, 4 and 5 are from film industry. The question is as to why would the said accused advertise or cause to advertise or promote or directly or indirectly take part in the advertisement or promotion of the use of consumption of cigarettes or other tobacco products? Absence of mens rea went to the root of this case. In the complaint as well as in the statement of Dr. Salkar, the general allegation against all the accused was made to the fact that they have promoted and agreed to promote the use of consumption of said tobacco product. What part was played by each of the accused was not stated. The manufacturer of the said cigar and advertiser M/s Intech International have not been made as parties.
13. The law as regards issuance of process is well settled. The Apex Court in the case of Smt. Nagawwa v. Veeranna Shivalingappa Konjalgi and others (AIR 1976 (3) SCC 736). has held that the Magistrate is merely concerned with the allegation made in the complaint or the evidence led in support of the same and he is only to prima facie satisfy whether there are sufficient grounds to proceed against the accused. It is not the province of the magistrate to enter into a detailed discussion on the merits or demerits of the case nor High Court can go into it, in its revisional jurisdiction. The Apex Court also held that order issuing process can be quashed or set aside;
- (i) Where the allegations made in the complaint or the statement of the witnesses recorded in support of the same taken at their face value make out absolutely no case against the accused or the complaint does not disclose the essential ingredients of an offence which is alleged against the accused.
- (ii) where the allegations made in the complaint are patently absurd and inherently improbable so that no prudent person can ever reach a conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused;
- (iii) where the discretion exercised by the magistrate in issuing process is capricious and arbitrary having been based either on no evidence or on materials which are wholly irrelevant or inadmissible; and
- (iv) Where the complaint suffers from fundamental legal defects, such as want of sanction, or absence of complaint by legally competent authority and the like.
15. On the other hand, Shri J. Vaz learned counsel on behalf of the accused Nos. 4 and 5 would submit that the complaint is nothing but a publicity stunt on the part of complainant. Counsel further submits that the moment the erection of the billboard was brought to the notice of the accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan, he ensured that it was removed and therefore this shows that the there was no mens rea on his part. Learned counsel further submits that billboard having been removed there was no offence made out on the day of filing of the complaint. Referring to the expression "Meri family mein hai", learned counsel submits that expression was not part of the film "Family". Referring to para 4 of the complaint Shri Vaz submits that it is the very case of the complainant that accused No. 5 is endorsing electrical appliances of accused No. 3 M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited and not advertising any cigars or tobacco products. Learned counsel submits that in his letter dated 26.12.2005 to the D.G.P., the complainant did not file a formal complaint to register any offence but only made a request to get the billboard removed. Referring to the advertisement published on Navhind Times dated 31.12.2005 Shri Vaz submits that it was meant as a publicity stunt or otherwise the complainant would have directly written to accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan. Shri Vaz, further submits that in case the complainant believes that accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan abhors tobacco, then the complainant could not have alleged that accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan had advertised cigars or tobacco products. Referring to para 9 of the letter dated 15.1.2006 addressed by Advocate Shri Thali to accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan, learned counsel submits that till that date the complainant did not know who was the actual offender. Shri Vaz further submits that in case accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan had named the real culprits as stated by him, in his letter dated 10.1.2006 then there was no reason for accused No. 4 M/s AB Corporation Limited and accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan had to be implicated as accused in the complaint. Learned Senior Counsel submits that letter dated 10.1.2006 addressed to Accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan, shows that the complainant was convinced that accused No.5 Amitabh Bachchan was not the culprit and on the contrary the complainant had sought his help to proceed against those responsible for the violation, and according to the complainant, as per his letter dated 18.1.2006, the real culprit or person responsible was accused No.1 Keshu Ramsay, who was playing in the hands of the tobacco lobby and had used unwitting Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. Learned counsel submits that Section 5 of the Act uses the expression " to take part" and in the context of this expression learned counsel has referred to Law Lexicon, page 1853, where the expression "takes part in" has been defined not to mean "is shown in".
16. Did any of the accused, namely accused Nos. 1, 2 4 and 5 take part in the said advertisement of billboard which directly or indirectly suggested or promoted the use or consumption of cigarettes or any other tobacco product, as contemplated by last part of subsection (1) of section 5 of the Act?
17. Section 5 (1) of the Act is a penal provision and requires to be construed strictly. It has got to read meaningfully and not superficially. When so read it can be seen that it contains three parts to cover three situations, if I may use that expression. As regards the first part of sub-section (1), of section 5 of the Act, it is nobody's case that any of the accused are engaged in, or purported to be engaged in the production, supply or distribution of cigarettes or any other tobacco products and have advertised such products. The expression "takes part in" appears in the third part of sub-section (1), of section 5, of the Act. The expression is "takes part in any advertisement". The expression "directly or indirectly" also appears in the last part of subsection (1) of section 5 of the Act.
18. Lord Denning M. R. was dealing with interpretation of a similar expression, namely "takes part in the item" in section 9 of the Representation of People's Act, 1969 in James Marshall v. BBC( (1979) 3 ALL ER 80). and in that context Lord Denning observed that the words "takes part in" do not mean " is shown in" , they do not even go so far as to mean "co-operates in". They only mean actively participates in the item. That was also the view of Waller LJ when he said that " takes part in the item" mean " actively participates in item"; Lord Waller LJ stated that the words require "active participation" and Cumming Bruce LJ, went a step further to say that "takes part in" mean "voluntarily participates in". The billboard or hoarding in question is an advertisement which was meant to promote anchor products on the banner of the film. Considering the text and context of expression used, it cannot be said that accused No.4 AB Corporation Limited or accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan "took part in the said advertisement" on the billboard even if it could be said that it showed use of tobacco products or a smoking situation whilst advertising the anchor products of accused No. 3(i.e. M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited ) , as contemplated by sub-rule 4, of Rule 2 of the aforesaid Rules. The billboard is a creature of accused No. 3 Anchor and M/s Intech International and if in creating the same they have used a clip from the film "Family" showing accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan as a don smoking a cigar it cannot be said that accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan has taken part in the said advertisement, as contemplated by the last part of sub-section(1) of section 5, of the Act. Accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan has not taken part in the advertisement put up on the hoarding. He is shown in the advertisement as a don smoking a cigar by accused No. 3 Anchor and Intech International, and that would not make him liable under the Act. Secondly, the complainant began with his inquiry with an appeal published on Navhind Times dated 31.12.2006, addressed to accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan. As can be seen from letter dated 10.1.2006 addressed by the complainant to accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan, the complainant even sought his support to any action which the complainant may take against those responsible. It is also clear from the letter dated 18.1.2006 that the complainant considered accused No.1, director of accused No. 2 - M/s DMS Films Ltd as the real culprit who played in the hands of pro-tobacco lobby and to further their interest used an unwitting Mr. Bachchan. It is therefore obvious that after the exchange of correspondence the complainant had realised that accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan had not committed any offence punishable under section 5 of the Act and in this view of the matter also no process could have been issued against accused No. 4 M/s AB Corporation Limited and accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan for an offence punishable under section 5(1) read with section 22 of the said Act.
19. The hoarding or the billboard appears to have been put up by M/s Intech International who is not a party to the complaint and accused No. 3 M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited. As can be seen from the letter dated 12.1.2006 addressed to the managing director of the complainant, by accused No. 2- M/s DMS Films Private Limited they were not advertising or promoting any tobacco products. They had only permitted Anchor through M/s Intech International to advertise their products on film posters. The letter mentions that they put up the billboard in the present form and they have taken action for removal of all the billboards as stated by accused No. 5, Amitabh Bachchan in his letter dated 9.1.2006. The letter also mentions that it is accused No. 3 M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited who had taken undue liberty while using still from the film "Family" carrying image and insertion of the slogan "Meri Family Mein hai" to promote their products. It is not the case of the complainant that the clip from the film "Family" showing accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan with a cigar in his hand was chosen by either accused No. 1 or Accused No. 2 and this goes to show that the clip in question was selected by M/s Intech International and accused No. 3 M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited. That, in my view would not invite the second part of sub-section 1, of section 5 of the Act against accused No.1 or accused No. 2. Second part of sub-section(1) of section 5 of the Act provides that "no person having control over a medium shall cause to be advertised cigarettes or any other tobacco products through that medium. The said medium of the hoarding did not advertise cigarettes or tobacco products but only the film "Family" and the products of Anchor Daewoo India Ltd.
20. The complainant after seeing the hoarding/billboard had began its investigation by putting another advertisement on the Navhind Times dated 31.12.2005 again showing accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan with the same photograph with a crossed cigar. In other words, the complainant republished the photo of accused No. 5 Amitabh Bachchan, holding a cigar which the complainant themselves have found to be violative of the provisions of the Act and one wonders whether that had not created any new smokers! The complainant having written letters and got replies, the letters and replies would certainly be treated as part of complaint as long as it was not the case of the complainant that any particular answer given by any of the accused was considered to be false by him for good reasons. Even in letter dated 18.1.2006 addressed by complainant to accused No.1 there is no allegation that it is accused No.1 who had given the said clip/still to M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited. There is no admission at all that it is accused No.1 or accused No. 2 who had sent the clip to either to M/s Intech International or Accused No. 3 M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited. The film "Family" might have been sent for approval by co-producers namely accused No. 2 M/s DMS Films Private limited and accused No. 4 M/s Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited and it was censored by the Producers Association of the concerned Ministry but that had nothing to do with the creation of the billboard by accused No. 3 M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited and M/s Intech International to advertise the film as well as the products of M/s Anchor Daewoo India Limited.
21. In my view, the complaint, the statement on oath and the correspondence produced, which had to be treated as integral part of the complaint, did not disclose the essential ingredients of an offence under section 5 read with 22 of the Act against accused Nos.1, 2, 4 and 5. Considering the facts of the case and for the reasons stated herein above, there is no scope to interfere with the impugned order of the learned Sessions Judge. Consequently this application is hereby dismissed with no order as to costs.