Today’s News Updates – 30 January 2018

“Res extra commercium”

To curb the $11 billion tobacco industry’s legal right to trade, the government, for the first time, has asked the top court to classify tobacco as “res extra commercium”, which is a Latin phrase for “outside commerce”. The move is part of the government’s effort to tame the tobacco companies looking to challenge tough regulations pertaining to the industry.

What is “res extra commercium”?

Res extra commercium means things beyond commerce, i.e., which cannot be brought or sold, such as public roads, rivers, titles of owners etc. it is a doctrine originating in roman law. In some contexts, it can refer to areas beyond national borders, such as space and the seabed.

What’s the issue?

India’s tobacco labelling rules, which mandate 85% of a cigarette pack’s surface be covered in health warnings, have been a sticking point between the government and the tobacco industry since they were enforced in 2016. But a court in southern Karnataka state last month quashed those labelling rules after the tobacco industry successfully argued the measure was “unreasonable” and violated its right to trade.

Therefore, seeking to apply this doctrine to tobacco, the government argued it should have the power “to regulate business and to mitigate evils” to safeguard public health.

Concerns associated:

The doctrine would open the door to an outright ban on tobacco sales if a state so wished. It gives the state autonomy to completely ban trade in tobacco. It also gives governments the constitutional cover that will protect future litigation. The industry will lose significant ground as your protection of right to trade is gone.

Background:

This is not the first time the doctrine has been cited; in the 1970s, the top court’s application of the doctrine led to two states completely banning alcohol, apart from allowing courts to take a stricter stance on regulating liquor.

Efforts by government to curb the use of tobacco:

The government, over the years, initiated several reforms in the recent years to curb the use of tobacco that kills almost nine lakh people in India each year. Increased taxes, campaigns, advertisements are some of the measures taken by the government to curb the use of tobacco.

Way ahead:

If this Roman law doctrine is is applied, it would have severe implications on the tobacco industry; not only would the industry’s legal rights to trade will suffer, but it will also give authorities more freedom to impose restrictions.


Quota For Acid Attack Survivors, People With Disability In Government Jobs

The Department of Personnel and Training has written to all central government departments to ensure that 1% of each posts be reserved for people with blindness and low vision; deaf and hard of hearing; locomotor disability including cerebral palsy, leprosy cured, dwarfism, acid attack victims and muscular dystrophy.

Background:

The move to enhance reservation quota for those with learning disability and acid attack victims comes after passage of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, and the notification of relevant rules in this regard. As per an earlier order of the DoPT, issued in 2005, 3% of the total posts were to be reserved for people with disabilities. Of these 1% each was for those with blindness or low vision; hearing impairment and locomotor disability or cerebral palsy.

Reservations:

In case of direct recruitment, 4% of the total number of vacancies, up from the existing3%, in groups A, B and C shall be reserved for people with benchmark disabilities. Benchmark disability means a person with not less than 40% of a specified disability.
1% posts each shall be also reserved for people suffering from autism, intellectual disability, specific learning disability and mental illness. Intellectual disability is a condition characterised by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning such as reasoning, learning and problem solving, and in adaptive behaviour that covers a range of everyday skills.

Grievance redressal:

Under the new rules, all government organisations have been asked to appoint ‘grievance redressal officers’ to look into complaints. These officers will maintain a register of complaint carrying details such as date of complaint; name of complainant; the name of the establishment or person against whom the complaint has been lodged; the gist of the complaint and the date of disposal by the grievance redressal officer.

Any person aggrieved with any matter relating to discrimination in employment against any person with disability may file a complaint with the grievance redressal officer of the respective government establishment. Every complaint shall be inquired into within two months of its registration and outcome thereof or action taken thereon shall be communicated to the complainant or person with benchmark disability.


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