Abkari cases by Excise wing

The Kerala High Court has decried the laxity on part of Excise officers and prosecutors in the conduct of abkari cases and the failure of the government to see that the officers performed their duties in a fair manner.

Justice Siri Jagan, on Thursday, setting aside an order of the Mavelikara Additional Sessions court awarding jail term to an accused, observed that courts were forced to acquit accused in abkari cases merely on technical grounds.

This was due to the failure of the Excise officers to follow the procedures prescribed. The accused were acquitted on the grounds of delay in producing contraband and samples before the court concerned. When asked, the officers were usually unable to explain such lapses, the court said. The court observed that it was not a secret that Excise officers were often accused of taking money from offenders to let them off the hook. The large number of acquittals on technical grounds left one wonder whether the failure to comply with the rules was deliberate.

Many such cases related to spurious toddy and seizure of arrack from licensed toddy shops. The powers that be had not taken steps to proceed against the officers responsible for the lapses.

The High Court had earlier pointed out that when the total quantity of toddy sold in the State far outweighed the quantity produced in the State, it was for anybody to see that what was sold was spurious toddy made from poisonous chemicals.

Terming weak the contention that a ban on sale of toddy would render toddy workers jobless, the court said toddy in its unfermented form was a tasty and wholesome soft drink, like coconut water. The Kerala Agricultural University had suggested a project for commercial production of such soft drinks from toddy.

Some of our neighbouring States were doing it. If the State government could come out with such a project, all toddy workers could be rehabilitated in that business.

The court expressed its ‘fervent hope’ that the government would now set its priorities right.

  • Acquittals are mostly on technical grounds: court

  • Officers asked to follow procedures