Stating that “the ill-effects of second-hand smoke can be equally detrimental to the health of a person who happens to be present near the smoker,” the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has allowed the four appeals of a Haryana resident, and penalised the director general Haryana State Transport and the financial commissioner, Haryana Health Department, directing it to pay Rs 80,000 to PGIMER, Chandigarh.
The order was made by the Bench of Raj Shekhar Attri (President), Padma Panday (Member) and Rajesh K Arya (Member), while hearing the four appeals of Ashok Kumar Prajapat of Hisar, who had complained that a driver of a Haryana Transport was smoking when he was travelling in it.
Prajapat had alleged in his complaint that the incident made him uncomfortable. He requested the driver to stop smoking as it is banned in public places and transport. The driver stopped smoking and the conductor assured that he would not allow the driver to smoke in the bus in future. The matter was then taken up with the higher authorities, who, after conducting an enquiry, imposed a fine of Rs 200 only upon the driver. The complaint at the Chandigarh Consumer Commission was dismissed, following which Prajapat filed an appeal at the State Commission.
The Commission Bench said, “In our opinion, imposing a petty fine of Rs 200 upon a person and that too, a driver of a bus, is not enough. The department ought to have taken severe and stringent action against the said driver, who violated rules and regulations and made mockery thereof and the system also. It seems that the disrespect for social and moral values is no issue for the driver. What is more startling is that the Haryana Transport Department is not devising any mechanism to stop such absurd action occurring in the buses by their own drivers and conductors. Such ill practices, among our own society, should be stopped…In our concerted opinion, such a defaulter should be awarded austere punishment by the Department.”
The Bench held that Dr Gulshan Cherwal, who appeared on behalf of the Health Department of Haryana, also failed to give a satisfactory answer to the query raised by the Bench, with regard to passive smoking in buses. However, Cherwal admitted that smoking in buses is hazardous for the passengers.
The Bench further said that the respondents being competent authorities have failed to take necessary steps to ensure that there is no smoking by their staff or by the general public, at public places. As a result, the appellant was caused a lot of inconvenience, harassment and agony. “the only way to protect our friends and families from second hand smoke is to keep the environment around them smoke free. Most second hand smoke is invisible and odourless, so no matter how careful you think you’re being, people around you still breathe in the harmful poisons. The ill-effects of second-hand smoke can be equally detrimental to the health of a person who happens to be present near the smoker, particularly in young children, adolescents and women. Passive smoking involves inhaling toxic components and various carcinogens and also contagious viruses, which are present in second hand smoke,” said the Bench.
The Bench made clear that Rs 20,000, has to be paid to the PGIMER, Chandigarh, in each case (four appeals), which will be used for treatment and care of cancer patients.