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Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
India film smoking ban challenged
Man smoking
The start of the ban is likely to be put back from Sunday to 1 January
The Delhi High Court has begun to hear a petition challenging a proposed Indian government ban on images of smoking in films and on television.

The petition, brought by film-maker Mahesh Bhatt, claims the move violates constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression.

The government says the ban is needed to curb tobacco take-up by youngsters and is supported by health activists.

The ban was to begin on Sunday but is now likely to be postponed to January.

About 800,000 Indians a year die from smoking-related diseases.


The High Court opened its hearing on Friday and adjourned the case until 10 November by when the relevant government ministries must respond to the petition.

The government announced the ban in May, saying no new films or TV programmes could portray smoking.

It also said there would have to be a prominent warning on films and programmes that have already been produced that contain images of actors smoking - whether Indian or foreign.

It said all logos of tobacco products would have to be masked or cut out.

Film-makers reacted angrily to the move.

Mr Bhatt said: "One would understand a ban on surrogate advertising, but to completely ban [smoking] is ridiculous, a joke taken too far."

But Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said "more and more youngsters and women are taking up tobacco use" and that he had the support of groups such as the World Health Organisation.

However, government sources said on Thursday ministerial differences meant the ban was likely to be put back to 1 January.

They said the broadcasting ministry wanted some concessions but the health ministry did not want the ban diluted.

Last year, smoking was banned in public places in India and a ban imposed on tobacco firms' advertising in and sponsoring of sporting events.

The new law also requires manufacturers to list tar and nicotine content on packets.

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