Mumbai, April 27, 2017: The Mumbai High Court bench comprising of Justice Manjula Chellur and Mr G S Kulkarni hearing the admission of the PIL filed by Mrs Sumitra Pednekar and others against the Union of India and state-owned insurance companies including LIC has impleaded ITC, Ministry of Finance, Agriculture and Industry and The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in the PIL. Farmers association represented by their counsels also requested their inclusion in the PIL, which was granted by the Honourable High Court.
As per directions from the Court, the concerned parties will now have to file their respective affidavits in reply to the petition within 6 weeks from now. The next hearing in the matter is likely to be held within 8 weeks from now. The Hon. High Court also directed the Additional Solicitor General of Bombay to represent the Union of India in the matter.
Senior counsels Mr Venkatesh Dhond and Mr Vineet Naik along with Avishkar ManuSinghvi and lawyers from MZM Legal including Waseem Pangarkar, the firm representing the petitioners made the opening remarks as to why the petition held merit. In response, senior counsels including Ravi Kadam, Rafique Dada and Janak Dwarkadas representing the respondents argued against the PIL stating that the investments made in companies were in the secondary market and not in any direct investment in the operations of the company. Senior Counsels, Mr Powaiyya and Mr Iqbal Chaggla representing famers associations brought up the issue of farmers in various states being dependent on tobacco as a livelihood, especially in drought prone regions.
He also added that the PIL was filed in order to seek clarity on the State policy on tobacco, especially because the Government of India which is almost like a co-owner in a tobacco company like ITC is also a signatory to the WHO convention which discourages investment of state in tobacco companies. This becomes a matter of public interest given that considerable expenditure from the state exchequer is incurred on improving healthcare and awareness related to cancer caused by tobacco.