The Madras High Court today stopped the Tamil Nadu government from relocating or opening liquor shops in residential areas, taking note of the spontaneous protests by women, deemed victims of men’s alcoholism. A bench of Justice N Kirubakaran and Justice V Parthiban restrained the government from relocating liquor shops to residential areas saying the sentiments of people, mostly women, agitating on the issue should be accorded paramount importance as they were the victims of liquor. The court also said the state-run TASMAC’s liquor shops should not be opened wherever there was a ‘grama sabha’ resolution against their location in villages or town or any local body.
Observing that women were spontaneously protesting against liquor shops which were shattering families, the bench also forbade police from arresting or taking action against peaceful agitations, not causing any inconvenience to the public.
The bench said the authorities should manage the situation with sensitivity rather than showing interest in just getting the alcohol outlets relocated.
This is the latest in a series of court interventions on the government’s move to relocate the liquor shops after the Supreme Court banned the sale of liquor within 500 metres of the highways from April 1.
Earlier on April 25, the court had restrained the government from opening or relocating the liquor shops along the highways by reclassifying the roads.
The bench today’s order followed on a bunch of plea, including the one by Tiruppur resident T Vignesh, seeking to prohibit authorities from relocating TASMAC shops in residential and other areas.
They submitted that people were staging protests because the closed shops were sought to be relocated near temples, schools, factories and even in the centre of residential area despite objections from the public.
The bench said, “It is evident from media reports and the number of cases filed before this court that mostly women are staging dharnas and protesting spontaneously opposing the opening of liquor shops as they are mostly victims of liquor.
“Hence, the authorities should manage the situation with sensitivity… should give paramount importance to people’s sentiments and feelings rather than showing interest in relocating or opening of liquor shops which are shattering the families,” the bench said in its order.
Most of the petitioners also contended that the police was interested only in giving protection to the officials to enable them open or relocate the shops at the earliest and had been attacking people who are staging agitations peacefully.
Countering this, Additional Advocate General K Venkatramani submitted that the police was taking action only against those people who indulged in violence and disturbed peace and tranquillity.
After hearing the arguments, the bench in its order said “The authorities are restrained from relocating or opening of TASMAC shops in the residential areas.
“If there is any agitation, with regard to the opening or relocating of TASMAC shops, the respondents shall not arrest or take action against the agitators provided they demonstrate peacefully, without causing inconvenience to the public,” it said.
The bench then posted the matter for further hearing along with the other related petitions.
In its April 25 order, the court had restrained the government from opening or relocating the liquor shops along the highways by reclassifying the roads, saying the executive powers cannot be used to negate judicial orders.
The order was given on petitions which accused the state government of trying to bypass the Supreme Court order by seeking to reclassify parts of the highways. The matter had been posted to July 10 for the next hearing.
Hearing another petition, the court had on May 5 sought a detailed report from officials on relocation of the liquor shops and the protests.
Quashing an FIR filed against a group of supporters of Naam Tamizhar Katchi who had staged a protest against the opening of a TASMAC shop in a residential area in Thirumullaivoil here, the bench had then ordered authorities to release all those arrested in connection with the stir.
The bench had suo motu impleaded state home secretary, director general of police, the Chennai police commissioner and the TASMAC general manager as respondents and directed them to file their replies and had posted the matter to June 12.