Smokers, from now on you will have to be careful about where you are smoking. The city police have begun nailing smoking in public places to supplement the efforts of Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) which began an intensified drive against smoking in public places in November 2012 itself. The police have started looking for those smoking in public places and booking cases against them under the Cigarettes & Other Tobacco Products (prohibition of advertisement and regulation of trade of commerce, production, supply and distribution) Act (COTPA), 2003.
The BBMP, so far, has filed more than 100 cases under Section 4 and 70 cases under Section 6B of COTPA (refer to the sections in the boxes).
Interestingly, although the act was legislated in 2003 and implemented within a year across the country, not a single case had been booked by the city police so far. The city police have now woken up to the act and have started fining those smoking in public spaces.
According to statistics available with the City Crime Records Bureau (CCRB), the city police, in a sudden surge of fining activity against the violating smokers, have booked 54 cases under the COTPA act in the first three months of this year.
Additional commissioner of police (Law and Order), Alok Kumar, told dna, "All these years the cases were not booked because of lack of awareness among people about the act. Sometimes the existing laws were not put into practice because society is not ready to accept the laws. Before formulating any law, the public should be made aware about it and only then should we start punishing or booking them. A lot of ground work has to be done by the law enforcing agencies.
Awareness has to be brought among the public through campaigns by various departments concerned; even last year BBMP had done some trials to create awareness among the people.
Hence, now we have started booking cases. The cases are being booked on the people who are found smoking in the public places and we will continue booking cases. It is better people realise this and stop smoking in public places especially near educational institution, hospitals, temples, parks, railway stations and bus stations."
The apparent trigger for the police taking a stringent stand against smoking in public was the hookah case in Ashok Nagar police jurisdiction late last year in which students from a prestigious school were caught smoking in a pub, where smoking was not allowed. That incident forced the city police into a rethink mode. And now, they are booking cases under COTPA as against earlier when the city police considered booking cases the Karnataka Police (KP) Act, in which First Information Reports (FIRs) are not required as these are considered petty cases.
Senior police officials said now, under COTPA, there will be FIRs registered; which means that the perpetrators of this offence will be taken to the court for trials.
However, although COTPA had been in force since almost a decade, a senior police inspector from the central division told dna that the main reason why no cases had been booked under the stringent act was the shortage of manpower among the police as COTPA required several more procedures and man-hours than the KP Act.
In March alone, the police have booked five cases in Sanjaynagar; five in Rajarajeshwari Nagar; four in Rajgopalanagar; four in Wilson Garden; two in Nandini Layout; and one each in Banaswadi, Amruthalli, HSR Layout and Koramangala police station limits. These were filed under section 4 and section 6B of COTPA Refer to sections). Gradually the police plan to book cases under all sections of the act in making it more stringent.
The persons booked under COTPA Act will be sent to the court, which will fix the the fine amount. So far, the city police we have collected more than Rs20,000 in fines from the a few of the 54 cases even as other cases are being heard in the court, police said.
Joint commissioner of police (crime-west) Pronab Mohanty said, \"We have started the drive against smoking in the public places, especially near educational institutions. We will not spare anyone if found smoking in the places where the youths are being affected."