Madras HC imposes restrictions on opening liquor stores near any residential areas.

The Madras High Court today stopped the Tamil Nadu government from relocating or opening liquor shops in residential areas, taking note of the spontaneous protests by women, deemed victims of men’s alcoholism. A bench of Justice N Kirubakaran and Justice V Parthiban restrained the government from relocating liquor shops to residential areas saying the sentiments of people, mostly women, agitating on the issue should be accorded paramount importance as they were the victims of liquor. The court also said the state-run TASMAC’s liquor shops should not be opened wherever there was a ‘grama sabha’ resolution against their location in villages or towns. Observing that women were spontaneously protesting against liquor shops which were shattering families, the bench also forbade police from arresting or taking action against peaceful agitations, not causing any inconvenience to the public.

The bench said the authorities should manage the situation with sensitivity rather than showing interest in just getting the alcohol outlets relocated.This is the latest in a series of court interventions on the government’s move to relocate the liquor shops after the Supreme Court banned the sale of liquor within 500 metres of the highways from April 1.

The bench said, “It is evident from media reports and the number of cases filed before this court that mostly women are staging dharnas and protesting spontaneously opposing the opening of liquor shops as they are mostly victims of liquor.

“Hence, the authorities should manage the situation with sensitivity… should give paramount importance to people’s sentiments and feelings rather than showing interest in relocating or opening of liquor shops which are shattering the families,” the bench said in its orderMost of the petitioners also contended that the police was interested only in giving protection to the officials to enable them open or relocate the shops at the earliest and had been attacking people who are staging agitations peacefully.

After hearing the arguments, the bench in its order said “The authorities are restrained from relocating or opening of TASMAC shops in the residential areas.“If there is any agitation, with regard to the opening or relocating of TASMAC shops, the respondents shall not arrest or take action against the agitators provided they demonstrate peacefully, without causing inconvenience to the public,” it said.

The bench then posted the matter for further hearing along with the other related petitions.In its April 25 order, the court had restrained the government from opening or relocating the liquor shops along the highways by reclassifying the roads, saying the executive powers cannot be used to negate judicial orders.

The order was given on petitions which accused the state government of trying to bypass the Supreme Court order by seeking to reclassify parts of the highways. The matter had been posted to July 10 for the next hearing.

Hearing another petition, the court had on May 5 sought a detailed report from officials on relocation of the liquor shops and the protests.

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