Trading rights under threat

| January 30, 2018

The Indian government is asking the Supreme Court to apply a rarely-used classification to the tobacco industry that would strip it of its legal right to trade, according to a Reuters story.

The move is said to be aimed at deterring tobacco companies from challenging new regulations.

But the government reportedly is not seeking to ban tobacco.

According to a Reuters review of a previously-unreported court filing by the Health Ministry on January 8, India’s top court is being asked to classify tobacco as res extra commercium, or a thing outside commerce.

If applied, the classification would have far reaching implications in denying the industry’s legal standing to trade and in giving authorities more leeway to impose restrictions.

The Supreme Court’s application of the classification to the alcohol industry during the 1970s paved the way for at least two Indian states to ban alcohol completely and provided for stricter regulations.

R. Balasubramanian, a government lawyer who is acting on behalf of the Ministry of Health in pursuing the classification implied that the effects on the tobacco industry would be greater than they were on the alcohol industry. “It will be a fillip to this drive against tobacco,” he said.

Balasubramanian said, however, that the government was not discussing banning tobacco and the goal of invoking the classification was only to curtail the industry’s legal rights.

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Category: Breaking News, Litigation, Regulation

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