Staff Reporter

Government decision to entrust toddy shops to cooperative sector

  • Says move will achieve a social objective
  • Says Government will have effective control on the functioning of shops

    Kochi: A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Wednesday upheld the Government decision taken as part of the new liquor policy to entrust toddy shops in select ranges to cooperative societies of toddy workers and persons engaged in toddy tapping.

    The Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice M.N. Krishnan upheld the decision while allowing appeals filed by the State Government and the Excise Commissioner against a single judge's ruling. The single judge had held that the decision was irrational and unconstitutional.

    The court observed that the Toddy Workers Cooperative Societies were societies functioning at the grassroot level. The cooperative societies were self-governing and democratic institutions intended to achieve the objective of equal social justice and economic development as envisaged in the Directive Principles of State policy. The policy formulated by the Government for entrusting the conduct of toddy shops in cooperative sector would only achieve such a social objective. Such a policy could not be assailed.

    The Bench observed that the apex court had held that courts should not substitute their judgment for the judgment of the executive in policy matters of the Government. The persons who challenged the decision of the Government had not demonstrated that any of their fundamental rights had been affected or that the policy had violated any statutory provisions.

    Sufficient ground had not been furnished for upsetting the policy. The wisdom of the policy was "not ordinarily answerable to judicial review" unless it was demonstrated that the policy was contrary to any statutory provision of the constitution.

    The judges observed that the Government would have more effective control on the functioning of the shops at the cooperative levels.

    The court was of the view that the writ petitions were preferred not by the cooperative societies under various ranges but by some individuals. The single judge had passed the interim order on a batch of writ petitions against the policy decision.

    The Bench concurred with the single judge's view that the policy decision to give preference to licensees who had conducted toddy shops during the preceding three years could not be intefered with.

    Advocate-General C.P. Sudhakara Prasad pointed out that the liquor policy announced in the year 2001-02 had also decided to give preference to toddy shops in the cooperative sector.

    The Division Bench had repelled petitions filed against the policy decision.

    The Advocate-General submitted that the Government decided to entrust the conduct of toddy shops to the societies in the whole of Kannur and Kozhikode districts and in three ranges in Kasaragod and Ernakulam districts.