Tamil Nadu

Madras High Court orders closure of all Tasmac liquor shops in Tamil Nadu

Personal distancing went for a toss as people gathered in large numbers to buy liquor from Tasmac shops across Tamil Nadu.   | Photo Credit: M. Vedhan

The Madras High Court on Friday directed the State government to close all 3,850 liquor shops run by the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (Tasmac) since the official machinery had failed to ensure adherence to physical distancing norms by customers, who thronged shops on Thursday.

Justices Vineet Kothari and Pushpa Sathyanarayana modified an order passed by them on Wednesday, permitting the government and Tasmac to reopen liquor shops, and ordered that henceforth no liquor shop should remain open until the lockdown to fight COVID-19 was lifted.

The latest order was passed on a batch of cases filed by various litigants including Makkal Needhi Maiam, led by actor Kamal Haasan. The court, however, permitted the government to introduce online sale of liquor and home deliver the bottles after making necessary amendments to the Tamil Nadu Liquor (Licence and Permit) Rules of 1981.

It said that Tasmac could deploy its 30,000 contract employees and even outsource some and utilise them for home delivery of liquor after ensuring that they comply with all safety protocols.

When the court expressed its disappointment over the government not having even tested its earlier suggestion to implement online sale of liquor, Tasmac pointed out that online sale was not feasible because the 1981 rules do not permit such sale. To this, the judges replied that the government should have thought of these things before deciding to reopen the shops.

Penning the order, Justice Sathyanarayana expressed dismay over the court-imposed conditions as well as executive instructions on maintaining physical distancing norms, restricting the quantity of liquor that could be sold to each customer and selling liquor to people of different age groups at different hours of a day having been thrown to the winds on Thursday.

The Bench said that media reports regarding flouting of physical distancing norms in liquor shops was startling. It also recorded that the government had conceded that there was a mad rush at liquor shops on Thursday, since they were opened after a gap of 41 days, and that it was beyond the control of policemen and others to ensure maintenance of physical distancing norms.

“Now what worries this court is this mad rush for liquor will only lead to... new clusters as opined by epidemiologists and public health experts. It has been warned by experts that the next seven days will witness doubling of COVID-19 [cases] for which reason the lockdown has been announced,” the court observed.

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2020 2:03:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/madras-high-court-orders-closure-of-all-tasmac-liquor-shops-in-tamil-nadu/article31538957.ece

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