Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court is seized of a public interest litigation petition, seeking a direction to the Puducherry Government to ensure that the number of liquor shops in the Mahe region is proportionate to its population.

According to the petitioner, Prohibition Council, the Mahe region, which had a population of 33,404 as per the 1991 census, had 64 licensed shops. As against the actual annual requirement of 51 lorry loads of liquor, about 1,000 lorry loads are imported into the nine-square-kilometre region situated adjacent to Kerala. While there were only 150 liquor shops in Puducherry, which had a population of six lakh, there was no justification for Mahe having 64 shops, it said.

A Division Bench of Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya and Justice N. Paul Vasanthakumar has adjourned the matter to October 1 for further proceedings. More than 40 liquor shop-owners have impleaded themselves as party to the proceedings.

Alleging connivance of officials with the liquor lobby, the petitioner-organisation submitted that liquor shops were located “mindlessly” within 300 metres of places of worship, schools and hospitals, in violation of Rule 113 of the Excise Rules.

These shops observed neither weekly nor public holidays; they were open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. all through the year, except Gandhi Jayanthi and Mahaveer Jayanthi, the petitioner said.