KARACHI: There is no specified law against gutka-related ‘offence’ due to which police register cases under sections which prescribe a prison sentence of six months only.

Inspector General of Police (IGP) A.D. Khowaja stated this on Thursday in his comments on a petition filed in the Sindh High Court. He also proposed to the SHC that a special law be legislated to make manufacture and sale of gutka and mainpuri cognizable offences.The SHC had earlier directed the IGP to file his reply on the rejoinder of the petitioner, Mohammed Rashid Khan, who alleged that hazardous gutka was still being manufactured and sold openly in the city, especially in parts of the Karachi West district, under the patronage of police and officials of the provincial and city administrations.

Headed by Justice Munib Akhtar, the two-judge bench was hearing the constitutional petition seeking measures against the manufacture and sale of gutka and mainpuri.

In his report, the IGP stated that currently gutka-related cases were being registered under Sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 273 (sale of noxious food or drink) of Pakistan Penal Code with a maximum prison sentence of six months.

“These provisions are also not specifically meant for gutka-related offences but being adapted in the absence of specific laws. It is, therefore, proposed that a special law for the prohibition of gutka be promulgated with enhanced sentence and exorbitant fines,” stated IGP Khowaja.

He also proposed to the SHC that a special law might be legislated under which the gutka-related offences be made cognizable offence and non-bailable. In order to control the smuggling of hazardous items, the performance of personnel posted at check points might be monitored, he added.

The IGP further stated that the food and quality control department had primary responsibility for controlling this menace through effective surveillance and actions. He said: “The home department may be approached to create effective liaison between police and food department for sharing information and conduct coordinated operations.

“The food department may also monitor and regulate the sale of ingredients used for the preparation of gutka, crushed nut, paraffin wax and staked lime.”

Earlier, the court was informed that 324 persons were arrested and 294 cases were registered in the ongoing crackdown against the manufacture and sale of gutka, mainpuri and other spurious items on the court’s directives.

The hearing was adjourned to a date to be later pronounced by the court’s office.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2017