Take back Padma awards from awardees endorsing tobacco: PIL

Govt informed court that show cause notices have been issued to actors

Ajay Devgn pan masala ad (File) Ajay Devgn appears in ads for a brand of pan masala

Listed for May 2024 is a hearing over a petition that demands taking back civilian honours from celebrities, especially 'Padma Awardees', who appeared in advertisements/endorsements of certain products/items which are harmful to health of the public at large.

Filed by one Moti Lal Yadav, a lawyer, in September 2022, the petition had asked for directions to the Central Consumer Protection Authority of India to take appropriate action against the private respondents by imposing penalty as per the provisions contained in Section 21 (2) of the Act, 2019. Another prayer made in the petition was that certain individuals i.e. ‘Padma Awardees’ as named in the writ petition be directed to deposit the entire amount earned by them from such advertisements and further that, an equal amount be also ordered to be deposited by them in relief fund of the Government of India. 

The present application is a contempt petition filed against the Cabinet Secretary, Government of India (GOI); and the Central Secretariat, GoI and others. The court passed its orders for the next date of hearing on December 8. 

The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court had earlier directed the petitioner to file a representation to the GoI and state governments. The petitioner in turn had pleaded that the GoI and state governments form committees to select suitable and talented persons for the awards and make guidelines for those who misuse the Awards. “It was, inter alia, also prayed that the Padma Awards in respect of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgan, Saif Ali Khan and Ranbeer Singh may be withdrawn as they advertise/endorse tobacco products,” read the petition. 

The government counsel in turn has argued that since the issue in question may likely be adjudicated in the Supreme Court of India, therefore, the proceedings of the present contempt petition may be deferred. Advocate Motilal Yadav had filed a petition raising issues concerning the alleged participation of celebrities, especially 'Padma Awardees', in advertisements or endorsements of certain products or items which are harmful to the health of the public at large.

The court had issued notices to Cabinet Secretary, Chief Commissioner and Central Consumer Protection Authority in August 2023, in a plea seeking contempt action for non-compliance with its September 2022 order, in which, it had asked the petitioner to approach the Government of India. Responding to the notice, the Deputy Solicitor General told the bench of Justice Rajesh Singh Chauhan that show cause notices were issued to actors Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn on October 20.

In April 2022, actor Akshay Kumar had apologized for appearing in advertisements for a pan masala brand after receiving backlash for the act being at odds with his propagation of a healthy lifestyle. However, ads featuring Kumar ran for more than a year and a half after that and have only stopped recently. In 2009, Kumar was conferred the Padma Shri. 

Amitabh Bachchan who received the Padma Shri in 1984 also appeared in a pan masala ad. He had, in November 2021, sent a legal notice to the company for continuing with the ad despite the termination of the contract. Saif Ali Khan who received the Padma Shri in 2010 has also endorsed a pan masala brand while simultaneously broadcasting no-tobacco messages.

Join our WhatsApp Channel to get the latest news, exclusives and videos on WhatsApp