This article is written by Raslin Saluja, from KIIT School of Law, Bhubaneswar. This article briefly collates all the anti-spitting laws applicable in the centre as well as the states.
It is found that Indians spit without the fear of being judged or the authorities penalising them because of social acceptance. On an average day, one could take a stroll around and find the railway stations, government buildings, lifts, public toilets, parks, roads and even cinema halls all spattered in red and crimson. There have been many instances reflecting the obsession of people with spitting, from Indian mothers and grandmothers doing it to prevent ‘buri nazar’ to the metaphors like ‘thoo-thoo karna’ and ‘thook kar chaatna’ which are regularly used in the Indian households.
Still, some disgust is associated with the habit and is unhygienic in general. It not only ruins the environment around but it was also found that it can cause the spread of COVID-19 as the saliva of an infected person can carry the virus for more than 24 hours. For all of these reasons, there are certain central and state level acts prohibiting spitting in public. In addition to it, there are also some temporary guidelines of COVID-19 to prevent the spread of the virus by banning spitting in public for the time being.
Laws against spitting in India
The Central Acts & Rules against spitting in India include:
Factories Act, 1948
Section 20 of the Factories Act, 1948 states that every factory will be provided with an adequate number of spittoons in convenient places which are to be maintained in a cleaned and hygienic condition. The State Government is vested with the power to decide on the logistics as to how many spittoons will be provided and at what location. They hold the power to make rules regarding them as well the matters relating to their maintenance in a clean and hygienic condition.
Further, the primary purpose of installing a spittoon is to prohibit and prevent people from spitting within the premises of a factory. To make it clear, a notice containing this provision and the penalty upon its violation also needs to be displayed at suitable places on the premises. The fine to be imposed for violating subsection 3 of Section 20 is not exceeding five rupees.
Indian Railways (Penalties for Activities Affecting Cleanliness at Railway Premises) Rules, 2012
Under Rule 3 Clause (b) read with Rule 4 of The Indian Railways (Penalties for Activities Affecting Cleanliness at Railway Premises) Rules, 2012, the penalty for the prohibition of activities affecting cleanliness and hygiene in the railway premises is given.
Rule 3 clause b elaborates on the activities prohibited from being done at the railway premises except for the facilities/convenience specifically provided, which include cooking, bathing, spitting, urinating, defecating, feeding animals or birds, repairing or washing vehicles, washing utensils or clothes or any other objects or keeping any type of storage near the area. As per Rule 4, the violation of Rule 3 would result in the imposition of a fine up to Rs. 500.
Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Regulations, 1990
The Regulation 98 [sub-rule (2) in specific] of the Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Regulations, 1990 talks about the spittoons which are to be provided in convenient places in sufficient numbers in every portion of a dock including warehouses and store places. They are to be maintained in a clean and hygienic condition. Further, all persons are prohibited from spitting in any area except that if the spittoons provided for the purpose. This has to be made known to everyone by placing a prominent notice at suitable places. The spittoons herein are to be of an approved type which need to be emptied, cleaned and disinfected at least once every day. Anyone violating sub-regulation 2 shall be imposed with a fine not exceeding one hundred rupees.
Disaster Management Act, 2005
This Act did not deal with spitting per se until there was a need for a national law to be enforced in every state as a preventive measure for combating COVID-19. The main objective of this Act is to provide effective management of disasters and matters related to them, in pursuance of which the Home Ministry and the Central Government made spitting in public a punishable offence under Section 51(b) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 in April 2020. It was done after witnessing the positive results achieved by the states and their municipal corporations who took proactive measures by implementing strict laws to control the spread of COVID-19.
Prior to this enactment, though many states had their own local anti-spitting laws with prescribed penalties, they were not enforced. Further, the public attitude, the widespread culture of betel and tobacco chewing and low priority keeps the practice going. However, due to the need of the hour and the situation worsening by the day, the States such as Bihar, Telangana, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Maharashtra, Assam and Nagaland banned the use of smokeless tobacco products and spitting in public places amid the pandemic outbreak. While on the other hand, many other states did not take any action against the spread of COVID-19 through spitting in public places which prompted the need for central law. With COVID-19 being made a “notified disaster”, the orders passed under the Disaster Management Act applies to the whole of India, thereby empowering the Government of India to instruct state governments to pass laws or orders against spitting and make the directive implemented by district magistrates through fines and penal action as per the Act.
Section 51 of the Act has two important reservations. Under the Act, the action on the part of the person has to be ‘without reasonable cause’ and ‘failure of an officer to perform the duty without due permission or lawful excuse’. Section 51(b) of the Disaster Management Act prescribes “punishment for obstruction” for refusal to comply with any direction given by or on behalf of the Central Government or the State government or the National Executive Committee or the State Executive Committee or the District Authority under the Act.
Upon refusal to comply with orders, the offender is liable for punishment with imprisonment up to one year, or fine, or both. In case this refusal leads to the death of people, the person liable shall be punished with imprisonment up to two years.
State Acts and Rules
The states at their level have their own local and municipal laws which are quite similar in nature with each other, against the menace of spitting in public places. These provisions are also noticed in the Police Acts of various states, while a few have their own specific enactments for it. The enactments include:
Arunachal Pradesh Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 1997
Under Section 3 of the Act, the penalty to deface the property in public by defecating or spitting or urinating or pasting pamphlets, posters or writing or marking is liable to be punished with imprisonment for a term up to six months or a fine up to Rs. 1000, or both.
Bombay Police Act, 1951
Under Section 115 of the Act, spitting is included under the activities prohibited in or near any street, public place or place of public resort. This is to prevent causing annoyance to a passerby. Further, under Section 116 of the Act, no person shall be found disregarding the notice put up by a competent authority in charge of any court, police station, police office, the building occupied by government or building occupied by any public body, otherwise would be punished with a fine up to Rs. 1200 upon conviction under as per Section 117.
Further, in 2020, Maharashtra’s state government decided to involve criminal action against those who are found spitting in public in view of the pandemic. The state’s public health department has proposed to invoke Sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 against violators. As per a media report, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had recovered Rs. 2.24 lakh in fines from at least 224 people who were caught spitting on the road. The BMC has levied a fine of Rs. 1,000 for those caught spitting in public places. Further, at least 167 people were also let off with a warning.
For a second-time offender, the fine will be Rs. 3,000 plus three-day community service and for repeat offenders, the fine will be Rs. 5,000 plus five-day community service. The aim behind the law is to shame the offenders and hurt their ego as simply paying a penalty and collecting a fine is not deterrent enough. When the penalty amount is low, the offenders do not think twice before repeating the act, therefore, the state public health minister of Mumbai said that they will introduce compulsory community service.
Earlier this year in April 2021, the Bombay High Court criticised the state government for not being able to stop people from spitting in public places and suggested BMC launch a mass campaign to make people aware of the unsanitary habit. The Court upon the hearing of the PIL questioned the BMC officials and the police as to why Rs. 200 was being collected despite the law permitting collection up to Rs. 1200 and asked the authorities to impose heavy fines and take proactive measures.
Goa Prohibition of Smoking and Spitting Act, 1997
The state of Goa has a separate enactment dedicated against spitting in public. It provides for prohibiting the use of tobacco in any form and spitting in places of public work or use and in public service vehicles in the State of Goa and to make provision for other matters connected therewith.
It defines spitting as “the voluntary ejection of saliva from the mouth after chewing or without chewing and ejection of mucus from the nose after inhaling snuff or without inhaling” under Section 2(i). Section 5 prohibits smoking in places of public work/use. Section 6 prohibits spitting while travelling in or using a public service vehicle. It is the duty of the owner or manager or in-charge of affairs of every place of public work to display or put on exhibit a board in a place where it is prominently visible stating that spitting is not allowed/ is an offence under Section 10. It has to be read along with Section 2(i) and Sections 11(a), 12, 13. Section 11 states that punishment for contravention of the provision with a fine up to Rs. 1000 and in case of subsequent offence with a minimum of Rs. 2000 which may extend to Rs. 5000.
Any authorized officer/ police officer not below the rank of sub-inspector may eject the violators from such place where the offence is committed, and any driver/conductor may eject the offenders from the public service vehicles who contravene the provisions as per Section 12. Further, the cognizance and trial of the offence can only take place at the Court of Judicial Magistrate First Class under Section 13 of the Act.
Though Gujarat does not have a specific Act against spitting, in view of the pandemic, the Gujarat Chief Secretary acted proactively and introduced a ban on spitting on roads and in public places. The action was punishable by a fine of 500 rupees and once the new order was implemented by the Amdavad Municipal Corporation (AMC), it resulted in 1244 persons fined on the very first day of enforcement. The AMC built on this measure by increasing the fine to 1000 rupees from 23 March 2020 and issuing police FIRs (first information reports) to those who refused or failed to pay the fine. This was done even before 15 March 2020 when the first reported case in Gujarat and well before the existence of the national directive on smokeless tobacco to contain COVID-19 issued under the Disaster Management Act.
Delhi Police Act, 1978
Under Section 95 of the Act, it is prohibited to spit or cause annoyance at any passerby in any street, public space or place of public resort. There shall be no disregard to any notice put up by a competent authority in charge of any court, police station, police office or building occupied by Government or building occupied by any local body under Section 96 of the Act. Further, the punishment upon conviction is a fine up to Rs. 100 or if in case of default in payment of fine then imprisonment not exceeding 8 days as per Section 97 of the Act.
Haryana Municipal Act, 1973
Section 159 of the Haryana Municipal Act, 1973, prohibits spitting in a public place that is within the limits of the municipality upon which this Section is applicable by way of a notification by the State Government. Anyone found spitting in a place other than a drain or a receptacle provided by the committee for this purpose would be in contravention of this Section and be convicted in the court of the Magistrate of the first or second class along with a fine not less than Rs. 25 and not more than Rs. 200.
Kerala Police Act, 2011
Under Section 120-E of the Kerala Police Act, 2011, the penalty for making a public place dirty is punishable with imprisonment up to one year or with a fine up to Rs. 5000 or with both.
Kerala Prisons and Correctional Services (Management) Act, 2010
Section 81(9) read with Section 82 of the Act, makes spitting on/soiling any floor, door, wall or another part of the prison building or any article in the prison is considered an offence of prison. Punishment for it is followed by an enquiry by the superintendent or through his authorized officer and can be as follows:
- A formal warning personally addressed to the prisoner by the Superintendent and recorded in the punishment book;
- Change of labour to some more irksome or severe form for such period as may be prescribed;
- Hard labour, for a period not exceeding seven days, in the case of convicted criminal prisoners not sentenced to rigorous imprisonment;
- Forfeiture of remission up to a period of thirty days at any one time or, removal of the prisoner with the approval of the Director-General from the remission system up to a period of six months;
- Stoppage of recreational facilities up to a period of one month or canteen facilities for a period of three months or stoppage of interviews for a period of one month;
- In case of breaches and violations in conditions of release on parole, such period shall not be counted as a period of imprisonment;
- Segregation up to a period of three months, and with the sanction of the Director-General, up to a period of six months;
- Separate confinement up to a period of one month at a time, and with the sanction of the Director;
- Cellular confinement for any period not exceeding fourteen days.
Madras Public Health Act, 1939
Under the Act, the definition of offensive matter includes spittings including chewed betel and tobacco as per Section 27(c).
Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Smoking and Spitting Act, 2002
Under the Act, Section 2(h) defines spitting as “the voluntary ejection of saliva from the mouth after chewing tobacco, pan-masala, gutka, betel leaf with areca nut in any form or any tobacco product or products containing tobacco or ejection of mucus from the nose after inhaling snuff.” Section 4 prohibits spitting in any public place of use/work. Section 5 prohibits spitting on any public service vehicle. Section 8 requires the person in charge of a public place of work/use to put up boards with slogans like “No Smoking” or “Smoking is an Offence” at a prominent place in or outside the place.
Contravention of Sections 4, 5 or 8 attract a punishment of fine up to Rs. 100 and in case of a subsequent offence, a minimum of Rs. 200 which may extend up to Rs. 500 as per Sections 9(1). Further, Section 12 empowers any authorised officer or any police officer, not below the rank of a Sub-Inspector to eject any person who contravenes any of the provisions of this Act, from the place of public work or use, and any driver or conductor of a public service vehicle may eject any person who contravenes any of the provisions of this Act.
Karnataka Police Act, 1963
Section 92(x) and 92(y) of the Act, states the punishment for spitting in any public place or place of public resort annoying any passerby, or spitting in any court, police station, public office/building occupied by government/public body violating the notice put up by a competent authority which is fine up to Rs. 100 and imprisonment upon failure to pay, which will not more than 8 days.
The state also followed the central’s directions in taking measures to curb public usage of tobacco as it increases the chances of the Coronavirus spread. The state exercised its powers as conferred by this Karnataka Epidemic Diseases Ordinance, 2020 Section 4(2) A of and the Indian Penal Code 1860, and issued an order banning the usage of chewing tobacco products and consuming pan masala products and spitting them in public places. The order stated that those who are found violating this direction will be booked under IPC 188, 268, 269, 270 and action will be initiated against the violators.
Himachal Pradesh Municipal Act, 1994
Section 149(b) of the Act prohibits spitting on public places, roads, streets or walls and prescribes a fine of up to Rs. 1000 in addition to other charges incurred for cleaning or removal of such spit etc from such a place.
Spitting on the roads of Shimla was already banned ever since the Himachal Pradesh High Court’s 2007 order for putting up sign boards for raising awareness and fining those spitting and smoking in public between Rs. 50 and Rs. 500.
Uttarakhand Anti Littering and Anti Spitting Act, 2016
The Act aims to keep the state clean by imposing restrictions on loitering and spitting. Section 3(j) defines spitting as similar to the definition of other acts. Spitting in a public place is an offence under Section 4 of the Act. Section 9 penalises spitting with a fine not exceeding Rs. 5000 or imprisonment for not more than six months/both. Upon subsequent conviction a further fine not exceeding Rs. 500 for every day during which the offence is continued.
Though it does not have a separate Act, in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Assam State Disaster Management Authority banned spitting in public places and declared it a punishable offence with a fine. The government also prohibited the consumption and sale of pan, gutka, tobacco etc. in public places. This year, the Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum (CLPF), Assam has demanded the Assam government by submitting a letter to the Chief Secretary to ban spitting in public places and prohibit the consumption or sale of the pan, gutka, and tobacco.
The state of Meghalaya has been working towards maintaining a clean surrounding since 2016 and has issued orders earlier prohibiting spitting in public places. As per Section 23 of the Meghalaya Factories Rules, 1980, the spittoons will be provided in each hospital at convenient places and will be fined for contravention with Rs. 5. Section 55 provides for the spaces where spittoons can be made. Section 56 specifies the types of spittoons to be made and their cleaning criteria is given in Section 57.
Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001
Under the Act, Section 441 restricts everyone from spitting in any place public within the limits of any municipal area other than a drain or a receptacle provided by the Municipality. This is to be read along with Sections 470, 471 & 472. Section 470 and 471 state the punishment for contravention of the provisions and the failure to comply with any orders given lawfully through the provisions which would be a fine up to Rs. 2000 and an additional fine in case of continuing failure up to one-tenth of the maximum fine for every day after the first failure.
Under the Hyderabad City Police Act, 1348 F, Section 72, contravention of a notice affixed by competent authorities in any court or Police Station or Police Office or building used for Government purposes or building occupied by any public body is punishable with fines up to Rs. 50.
Telangana too, like other states promulgated a ban on spitting pan, any form of chewable tobacco or non-tobacco products in public places. The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 gives the civic authorities the power to enact the rules and violators of this ban are to be booked under Section 188 of IPC which imposes a fine up to Rs. 1000 or imprisonment up to six months or both. Further, According to Section 327(2) of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation Act, 1955, a person can be imprisoned for a month or fined up to Rs. 5000 for spitting in public.
Orissa Urban Police Act, 2003
Under the Act, Sections 80 clause (c) prohibits spitting in or near any street, public place or place of public resort. Section 83 prohibits spitting in contravention of any notice put up by a competent authority in charge of any court, police station, police office or building occupied by government or building occupied by any local body which will be punishable with a fine up to Rs. 1000 or in case of default of such fine, imprisonment, not more than 30 days as per Section 84.
Madhya Pradesh Municipalities Act, 1961
Section 258 of the Act prohibits spitting in any place other than a drain or receptacle provided for the purpose by the municipal council and prescribes punishment with a fine which may extend to twenty-five rupees.
It also banned spitting in public places for the prevention of spreading of the virus and imposed a penalty of Rs. 1000 on those who are found violating. The order in this respect was issued by the Principal Secretary of the Urban Development and Housing (UDH) Department in the exercise of the powers vested to the state government under Section 418-A and 426-A of the Madhya Pradesh Nagar Palika Nigam Act, 1956 and Section 346 of the MP Nagar Palika (Municipalities) Act 1961.
West Bengal Smoking & Spitting and Protection of Health of Non-smokers and Minors Act, 2001
Section 2(8) of the Act defines spitting which is prohibited in public space and public vehicles as per Section 5 and 6 respectively. Similarly, as per Section 10, the person in charge of such public places has to put on display boards with slogans against spitting as mentioned above. Sections 11(1) states the punishment for contravention of Sections 5, 6 and 10 which is fine up to Rs. 1000 and for subsequent conviction, it will be not less than Rs. 2000 which may extend up to Rs. 5000. Offences under Sections 5, 6 & 10 are cognizable and bailable as per Section 14 of the Act.
Other states such as Bihar, Rajasthan, Punjab, Mizoram, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh by virtue of power under their respective Epidemic Disease Act of the state issues notifications for banning spitting in public. However, these COVID-19 guidelines are temporary in nature and would be effective so long the pandemic lasts, while what we need is an Act or Rule which has a permanent effect and strict enforcement in order to have an actual effect in the long term. The approach should be beyond enforcement and imposing high penalties, so as to create awareness and touch the conscience of the people.
Despite having legislative enactments, we have not been able to bring this menace under control. These enactments have not been effective in preventing people from indulging in the act and due to very low imposition of fines, no deterrence has been created. Preventive guidelines for COVID-19 can become one great excuse for people to break away from their habit of spitting anywhere and everywhere. It would be a great service to the nation, although the guidelines are applicable for a limited period. Further, there have been various campaigns and talks around it, but the issue needs serious attention to establish a spit free India.
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