Maharashtra to book gutkha manufacturers under MCOCA

State feels the ban on sale of gutkha imposed in Maharashtra in 2012 has not been effective.   | Photo Credit: B_JOTHI RAMALINGAM

The Maharashtra government will now book manufacturers of gutkha under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), Minister for Food and Drug Administration Rajendra Shingne said here on Thursday.

He said that the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was serious on effective implementation of the gutkha ban in the State and that it would book anyone found involved in supply, manufacture, storage, distribution, transport and sale of gutkha under the provisions of the MCOCA.

“We are contemplating this move as the ban has not been effective in the State from 2012 onwards. The existing laws are not strict and the accused get away easily by paying some fines. We will come down hard on those involved in illegal smuggling and production of gutkha,” the Minister said.

Not blanket action

Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh clarified that the MCOCA will not be imposed in a blanket manner but only if a gang/cartel was found involved in smuggling, storage and sale. “This will be on a case to case basis and only when we find evidence of some sort of organised crime taking place. It will not be a blanket action under the MCOCA,” he said. Since the announcement of ban in 2012, Maharashtra has seized gutkha worth ₹171 crore. The State has filed 3,727 FIRs and 4,600 court cases are pending in court.

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar held a meeting to review the effectiveness of the ban this week.

He warned officials of action if gutkha was found stored in their area of jurisdiction. Action would also be taken against companies who are promoting liquor and tobacco with other subsidiary products in advertisements.

Maharashtra’s tobacco ban has been in place since 2012 but was not being implemented owing to pressure from a powerful gutkha lobby, and smuggling from neighbouring States. Maharashtra imposes a jail term of six months on sale of tobacco, while selling it is a bailable offence under the existing laws.

The punishment was raised to three years in prison, and the offence made non-bailable, the government had announced in Assembly in 2018.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 12:12:30 AM |

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