Madras HC freezes reopening of liquor shops

The Madras High Court on Tuesday restrained the Tamil Nadu government from opening/reopening or relocating liquor shops along or abutting the national or state highways in the southern state for three months.

The petitioners contended that the circular was meant to bypass the Supreme Court directive banning the liquor shops within 500 metres of the highways and said it was "a colourable exercise of power".

Tuesday's interim order is applicable only to liquor outlets the government proposed to set up along the highways circumventing the apex court's order till the next three months, when the court will hear the case again. This was to be adopted by today.

To circumvent the order, the Municipal Administration Commissioner traced a report from November 11, 2016, which recommended that the State bring stretches of national and State highways coming under urban local bodies such as corporations and municipalities under the respective local bodies. This after the DMK together with Advocates Forum for Social Justice (the legal wing of the PMK) filed a petition challenging the state government's move to bring certain national and state highways under urban local bodies.

Yesterday, the main Opposition party had approached the High Court to stop any attempt by AIADMK government to dodge top court's order to sell of alcohol within 500 meters of the highway.

When the first bench asked the advocate general Muthukumaraswamy on whether the government's move to reclassify the highways and bring them under local bodies would not lead to TASMAC shops being reopened, the counsel asked for more time to consult with the state government.

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Earlier, senior advocate P. Wilson, appearing for the DMK, contended that the State government was trying to displace the effect of the Supreme Court verdict, even though the State legislature had no power to do so. Such decisions can not be adopted by the executive or those appointed as special officers, he argued.

Pointing out that local bodies do not have elected councils since October 2016, the counsel said municipal corporations, as per Article 243 of the Constitution, are self-governments and so can not adopt resolutions.

"Whenever the Hon'ble Supreme Court issues directions to the government, the same must be implemented in strict sense with letter and spirit and no attempt shall be made to nullify the same in any form..."

  • Leroy Wright