The Bombay High Court today asked the Centre to respond to a petition which questions the Union government's policy of allowing public sector insurance companies to invest in the tobacco industry on the ground that it contradicts the "anti-tobacco" stance of the government. A bench of Chief Justice Dr Manjula Chellur and Justice G S Kulkarni after hearing the petitioner's counsel Waseem Pangarkar posted the PIL to April 27. The PIL has been filed by Sumitra Pednekar, widow of Maharashtra's former home and labour minister Satish Pednekar who died of oral cancer in 2011, and six others including officials of Tata Trust and doctors of Tata Memorial Hospital. The respondents are the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) and 4 other insurance companies apart from the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) and the Union government. The petition has sought directions from the high court to respondent insurance companies to divest their shareholding from tobacco companies and not to make such investments in future. The PIL wants that the government and the IRDA be directed to frame guidelines or a code of conduct to ensure such disinvestment takes place and also to ensure that no such investments are made in future. The petition has said that the investments made by insurance companies are in contradiction to the anti-tobacco stance taken by the Union government at national and international levels.
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