“Top priority must be given to functioning of fair price shop”

The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (SCDRC) on Thursday ordered the authorities to close down a liquor shop run by Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (Tasmac) next to a ration shop, holding that top priority must be given to functioning of the fair price shop.

Following a complaint preferred by Shanmugaraj, a resident of Mylapore, a Bench of the SCDRC headed by Justice R. Regupathi also said, “Compared to alcohol consumers, consumers of essential commodities who are holding valid ration cards, in particular women folk, must be given much importance and preference.” The Bench directed the authorities to shift the Tasmac shop to any location forthwith.

Mr. Shanmugaraj said he was purchasing provisions from a ration shop located on R. K. Mutt Road, Mylapore, in which about 800 ration card holders drew essentials. Recently, a licence was issued to run a Tasmac shop on the same premises. Now both shops were located in the same premises.

The complainant added that contrary to rules the liquor shop was situated near Kapaleeswarar temple tank, Ramakrishna International temple and schools. Those who consumed liquor created nuisance, spilled eatables in and around the shop and made noise, thereby preventing innocent public from reaching the ration shop.

A. Palaniappan, counsel, submitted that even after a series of agitation conducted by consumers the authorities did not take any steps to relocate the Tasmac shop. He also stated that the consumer forum had jurisdiction to entertain the complaint, since hundreds of family card holders/consumers depended on the ration shop for getting their essential commodities periodically.

Muthuraj, counsel for Tasmac, contended, “The shop gives good revenue to the tune of Rs.2.5 lakh every day to the government and in the event of relocation….., a great hardship would be caused to persons who are regularly visiting the bar and consuming liquor.” He also added that steps were taken to shift the shop to a suitable place within 45 days.

After receiving a report from the commissioner appointed by the SCDRC, the Bench said, “Though the Tasmac and fair price shops are service providers, one cannot overlap the other. When essential commodities are supplied by the ration shops to the poor and the needy, such supply must be honourable and uninterrupted and it must be appreciated by the public. No hindrance shall be caused by any one to the public whenever they approach ration shops to receive their articles.”

Mr. Justice Regupathi said, “In spite of repeated requests made by the civil supplies authorities, the Tasmac authorities have not chosen to take any steps for shifting the liquor shop so far, which would clearly show their irresponsible way of discharging their duties.”