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Thursday, August 4, 2022

Law expert sees no violation of constitutional rights in GEG bill


The Generational End Game bill seeks to curb smoking among the young.

PETALING JAYA: With many worried over a violation of constitutional rights in the Generational End Game (GEG) bill that aims to curb smoking among the young, constitutional law expert Shad Saleem Faruqi has sought to explain why this is not a case for concern.

He said the “personal liberty” stated in Article 5(1) was not an absolute right, but a right that could be regulated, such as the right to own drugs or firearms.

The article protects individuals from executive arbitrariness, but Shad said personal liberty could be deprived if this was done according to law.

“As long as there is a valid law and the executive acts in accordance with the law, there is no unconstitutional violation of personal liberty,” he told FMT.

Shad Saleem Faruqi.

However, he said Section 34 of the bill regarding powers of forcible entry and unrestricted access to an individual’s personal information and computerised data appeared excessive given the minor nature of the offences involved.

As for subjecting the generation born in 2007 and later to the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill, Shad said this was “rational and reasonable” according to the law.

He said the differentiation regarding age could not be considered “discrimination” under Article 8(1) of the constitution as the law did not mandate that all persons be treated alike but that those in a similar situation should be similarly treated.

“We have laws with age restrictions for voting, marriage, sex, criminal liability and many more. Age is a permissible, rational and necessary criterion for classification under a host of laws,” he said.

Andrew Khoo.

As age is not a protected category, Bar Council official Andrew Khoo said it could be argued that concerns about discrimination under the bill were unwarranted.

“The government could argue that there is no discrimination under this bill since members of the generation affected by the GEG will be treated similarly among themselves,” the co-chairman of the Bar Council constitutional law committee said.

He said bodily autonomy and self-determination were important, but added that it was necessary to examine if defending one’s right to smoke was justified given the proven negative medical consequences.

Lawyer Fahri Azzat said the question of whether those born from 2007 onwards could be reasonably classified into a category of their own needed to be answered by the courts.

He alleged that the issue had been tackled in a “lazy way” given the lack of meaningful policy discussion as well as the lack of consideration regarding the workability of the ban, such as whether there would be unintended consequences.

“Banning something does not necessarily result in its absence but rather greater presence in black markets, just like the death penalty has not seen a reduction in drug trafficking in the country,” he said. - FMT

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