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Health Ministry for ban on sale of loose cigarettes

The Health Ministry has accepted recommendations of an expert panel that includes ban on sale of loose cigarettes and making cognizable offences related with tobacco


The Union Health Ministry has accepted the recommendation of an expert panel to ban the sale of loose cigarettes.


Health Minister JP Nadda, in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha, said, “The Ministry has accepted the recommendations and a draft note for Cabinet has been circulated for consultation."


The expert panel, set up by the Health Ministry has recommended prohibition on sale of loose or single stick of cigarette, increasing the minimum legal age for sale of tobacco products, increasing the fine or penalty amounts for violation of certain provisions of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA), as well as making such offences cognizable.


These recommendations will now be put before the Cabinet and will also require a Parliament nod before they are implemented.


Protests over Ferguson ruling spread across US

Protests spread across the US following no indictment of police officer who shot a black teen in Ferguson town. In New York City's Times Square, several hundred people rallied carrying banners protesting 'police tyranny'


Protests spread across the US over the explosive grand jury decision in Missouri against indicting a white cop who shot dead an unarmed black teen.


Angry people took to the streets from Seattle out west to Chicago in the middle and New York late Monday, the nation's largest city, as the hotspot town of Ferguson, Missouri - where the decision was rendered - roiled with rioting.


Not long after President Barack Obama appealed for calm over the hotly awaited ruling in Missouri in the case of slain teen Michael Brown by white policeman Darren Wilson, several hundred people gathered in front of the White House.


They chanted slogans such as "Hands up, don't shoot" and waved banners saying "stop racist police terror" and "Justice for Mike Brown."


That demonstration was peaceful, unlike violence that broke out in Ferguson itself in which a police car was torched, stores were looted and police fired tear gas to disperse angry black demonstrators.


The rally outside the White House dispersed after midnight but demonstrators headed elsewhere, possibly toward the US Capitol, the seat of Congress, AFP correspondents observed.


In New York City's Times Square, several hundred people rallied carrying banners protesting 'police tyranny'. Others had slogans saying 'racism kills' and 'no justice, no peace'.


Some people likened police to the white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan.


The police presence in New York City was heavy. A helicopter flew overhead. Another rally was held in the city's Union Square.


New York City police chief Bill Bratton made an appearance at the Big Apple's signature crossroads Times Square, where someone splashed him in the face with a red liquid.


Other protests were held in major cities such as Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. In Oakland, California, which has a large black community, protesters blocked a highway.


But in these cities there were no immediate reports of violence.


Why was Manmohan Singh not examined in coal scam?

Replying to the Special Court’s query CBI said officials of PMO were examined during the probe and it was found that the statement of the then Coal Minister Singh was not necessary


The Special Court on Tuesday asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as to whether it has examined former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was then holding the coal portfolio, during its probe in the coal blocks allocation scam case involving top industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, former Coal Secretary PC Parakh and others.


Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar asked the agency, “Don’t you think examination of the then Coal Minister was necessary in the matter? Don’t you feel the need to examine him (Singh)? Don’t you think his statement was necessary to present a clear picture?”


Responding to this, the Investigating Officer (IO) told the court that the officials of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) were examined during the probe and it was found that the statement of the then Coal Minister was not necessary.


He, however, clarified that the then Coal Minister was not permitted to be examined.


Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held the portfolio of the Coal Ministry when Birla’s company Hindalco was allocated coal blocks in Orissa’s Talabira II & III in 2005.


“PMO officials were examined. The then Minister of Coal was not examined in light of the statement of PMO officials,” the IO said, adding “the then Coal Minister was not permitted to be examined. It was found that his statement was not necessary”.


During the hearing, the court directed CBI to file the case diary before it, after which the Senior Public Prosecutor VK Sharma said the agency be allowed to file these documents in a sealed cover.


“...I deem it appropriate that let the case diary files and crime files of the present case be summoned and as per the request of Senior PP, let it be produced in the sealed cover,” the judge said and posted the matter for further proceedings on 27th November.


Earlier on 10th November, CBI had told the court that there was “prima facie enough material” to proceed against some private parties and public servants in the case.


The Supreme Court-appointed special public prosecutor (SPP) RS Cheema for CBI had submitted before the judge that the court can take cognisance of the offences mentioned in the closure report as there was prima facie “evidence against the accused to show their involvement”.


The CBI’s stand seeking prosecution of the accused had come after the court, on 12th September, questioned the agency for showing hurry in closing the case in which an FIR was lodged against Birla, Parakh and others.


On 21st October, the agency had filed a revised final closure report in the case.


The FIR against Birla, Parakh and others was registered in October last year by CBI, which had alleged that Parakh had reversed his decision to reject coal block allocation to Hindalco within months “without any valid basis or change in circumstances” and shown “undue favours”.


The FIR relates to allocation of the Talabira II and III coal blocks in Odisha in 2005.


CBI had booked Birla, Parakh and other Hindalco officials under various IPC sections, including criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct on the part of Government officials.


In its FIR, the agency had alleged that during the 25th Screening Committee meeting, chaired by Parakh, the applications of Hindalco and Indal Industries were rejected for mining in Talabira II and III “citing valid reasons”.


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