State has no constitutional obligation to supply tobacco: PDP

Chhimi Dema

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) countered the government’s justification to allow the sale of tobacco through the Bhutan Duty Free Ltd yesterday, calling it unconstitutional.

The party said that it could cost the ruling party its place in the Parliament.

The party in a strongly worded three-page press release yesterday blamed the government of not upholding the rule of law and breaching the provisions of the Constitution.

For any executive order that overrules a provision of the law passed by the Parliament, there should be other laws to immobilise this provision, says PDP.

PDP mentioned that the country has not declared Emergency under Article 33 of the Constitution.

Attorney General’s (AG) statement that the right to import tobacco has to supersede Tobacco Control Act and the government’s measure of setting tobacco outlets was refuted by  PDP saying it is up to the consumers to import or not.

“If the circumstances do not favour importing by consumers themselves, it may not be right for the government to act by violating the very law that is protecting these consumers,” says PDP.

PDP said, “The right to import tobacco is a legal right given by the Tobacco Act and not a fundamental right given by the Constitution.”

Going by the AG’s statement, the closure of business were not decided upon emergency sessions but by an executive order. PDP counters that it exhibits AG’s notion that the enforcement agencies without question has to abide by orders that are not sanctioned by the law but passed by the government.

Citing examples of other nations, PDP stated that decisions that were undertaken during exigent situation are “either backed by law or have congressional or parliamentary endorsement.”

PDP counters AG’s opinion that law becomes secondary for an exigent situation that compels the government to act as a “scary proposition of law.”

PDP said that the government without declaring an emergency that the law becoming secondary denotes that “the government can take any action regardless of whether or not it is in conformity with the Constitution and other laws including Parliamentary decisions.”

PDP justified that even in national state of emergencies apart from Sections 2, 3, 5, 12 and 19 under Article 33(7), the rest 17 sections are effectual.

Along with the government, PDP said that people who bought tobacco products from outlets were liable for penalty for violating Section 11 (C) of the Tobacco Control Act by buying tobacco within Bhutan.

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