The Madras High Court made an impassioned appeal to the Government to prohibit alcohol, while observing that alcohol consumption is the root cause for many evils and numerous offences committed, especially against women and children (M Thaha Mohamed v. The District Collector, Madurai and ors).
The Bench of Justices of N Kirubakaran and B Pugalendhi was dealing with a petition raising grievance over a State-liquor vending outlet/TASMAC shop which was proximate to a girl’s High School and opposite to the Madurai Bench of the High Court.
While ordering the re-location of the outlet, the Bench added,
“…this Court appeals to the State Government to bring prohibition in the State in a phased manner to wipe out the tears of women and children thereby safeguarding their rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It is not only the appeal of this Court but the collective voice of suffering of housewives, children and the entire society.”
The Court opined that if such prohibition is brought about in consonance with Article 41 of the Constitution of India, it would definitely steeply reduce offences, increase the income of individuals, aid the health of drunkards, decrease domestic violence, increase family income, reduce drunken driving and deaths due to drunk driving.
Society would be more peaceful and the dream of Father of the Nation would be realised, the Bench said.
“Will the Government listen to this Court?” the Court added.
The Court expressed anguish over the State not being bothered about flooding the State with liquor as long as revenue flows steadily from booze.
“About 5,300 TASMAC outlets easily earn about Rs.30,000 crores to Tamil Nadu Government every year. Rs.70 crores on normal days, Rs.90 to Rs.100 crores during weekends and Rs.110 to Rs.120 during festival days, TASMAC earns. Rs. 465.79 crores was net sale during two days during Deepavali in November 2020.
The sad fact is that Government loses mere than Rs. 2 in terms of health care expenses and loses productivity, for every rupee the Government gets from alcohol, according to the study made by NIMHANS in Karnataka a few years ago,” the Court observed,
A CRISIL report from 2020 was also cited to point out that Southern States in India account for half of the country’s liquor consumption.
“Another shocking but not surprising fact is that Tamil Nadu is the largest consumer of liquor in the country accounting 13% of national sales followed by Karnataka with 12%. Whether water flows in rivers of the State or not, this special water (liquor) flows in every nook and corner of the State even near places of worship, schools, colleges etc,” the Bench remarked.
The Court said that it cannot lose sight of what is happening in the society due to drinking habits of the people. Families are shattered and the victims are women and children whose right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution is violated due to liquor, the Court added. Concern was also raised over drunken driving, which the Court observed is stated to be responsible for the death of nineteen Indians every day.
On this note, the Court also queried why two-wheeler parking stands are made available outside TASMAC outlets, stating,
“It is strange that almost, outside every TASMAC outlet and bar, there is a two wheeler parking stand and it is not understandable as to how drunken people are allowed to ride two wheeler, especially when drunken driving is an offence…”
Quoting data from the National Crime Records Bureau, the Bench highlighted that “12,256 road accidents occurred in 2019 due to drunken driving whereas 12,000 accidents occurred in 2018.”
This data would only account a fraction of the actual position, the Court said, “as many drunken driving accidents are not shown correctly by the concerned to safeguard the rights of the victims to make insurance claims.”
The Court went on to point out that several orders have been passed by the High Court earlier to re-locate TASMAC shops owing to their being situated within prohibited distances from schools, colleges etc. Despite this, TASMAC shops continue to be established contrary to the rules, the Court lamented.
“It seems Government is interested in generating revenue from liquor shops rather than safety and security of the people and peace,” the Bench added.
In this backdrop, the Court also asked the Managing Director of the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation Ltd. (TASMAC) to divulge details regarding the number of TASMAC outlets in Tamil Nadu, the number of shops with respect to which objections have been raised regarding location, the number of outlets re-located upon such objection being made as well as the number of such objections which were rejected.
The Court added that TASMAC authorities should, in future, decide on objections moved over the location of TASMAC shops within four weeks’ time and inform the persons raising complaints, about the status of their objections.