Madras High Court asks state govt to reconsider liquor policy for welfare of people

Madras High Court: In the procedural document filed to restrain the respondents from opening/establishing the recreational club of respondent 5 and his bar association, the District Court R.Suresh Kumar* and G. Arul Murugan, JJ. requested the State Government to reconsider the liquor policy for the welfare of the people of Tamil Nadu, especially the younger generation.

The apprehension of the petitioner is that in the village of Thambi Garden and so far in that village there was no Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation Limited (“TASMAC shop”) or any club selling Indian Foreign Liquor (“IMFL”) under FL2 license. Accordingly, some people have taken steps to open a recreational club within a week or two in the village in the name of respondent 5. In this regard, the petitioner on behalf of the society in that village has already filed objections before the Commissioner of Prohibition and Excise and the District Collector. However, those objections were never disposed of. Accordingly, the petitioner on behalf of the local society has filed the present petition.

In respect of setting up of a shop, bar or recreational club of TASMAC for the purpose of selling IMFL after obtaining FL2 license, the Court took into consideration Rule 8 of the Tamil Nadu Retail Sale of Liquors (Shops and Bars) Rules, 2003 (“2003 Rules”) and observed that no shop shall be set up within the premises of Municipal Corporations and Municipalities at a distance less than 50 metres and in other areas within 100 metres of a place of worship or educational institution.

The Court held that in the instant case, the proposed location of the recreational club of respondent 5 is within the municipal area. Therefore, only the 50 metre rule would be applicable. The Court further observed that there is no place of worship or educational institution within the radius of 50 metres. Therefore, according to the District Collector, by applying Rule 8 of the Rules of 2003 after examining the distance, as it does not violate the Rules, particularly Rule 8(1) regarding the distance of location of the licensee, the objection raised by the public is liable to be dismissed.

The court said that we have come across many cases where the residents of a particular locality have opposed the decision of the authorities to locate a TASMAC or IMFL shop or to grant a license to sell such shops to IMFL. In response to the objections raised by the public, especially women, the authorities have argued that it is not covered by the rules, which means that the rules are not being violated.

The court said that the Rules of 2003 should be framed to protect the welfare of the people of various localities in the State from the menace of people congregating in such liquor shops which create law and order problems almost on a daily basis. However, the Rules appear to be framed to protect those TASMAC retail shops, IMFL retail shops, clubs or bars which are aimed at increasing the sale of these intoxicating materials which will affect the society at large to a great extent.

The Court, therefore, suggested that it was important to reconsider and review the government’s alcohol policy so that the government could make an informed decision based on public opinion.

The court asked the state government to reconsider the liquor policy in Tamil Nadu to ensure the welfare of the people of the state, especially the younger generation.

(D Prabhu vs. Commissioner of Prohibition and Excise, WP(MD)No.14523 of 2024, decided on 03-07-2024)

Attorneys representing in this case:

For the Applicant: Attorney M. Mohamed Zamil

For respondents: Government advocate P. Thilak Kumar, Additional public prosecutor T. Senthil Kumar