In a landmark decision that could affect state revenue and liquor consumers, the Madras High Court has ordered the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) to shut down all bars in its stores in six months. retail across the state.
TASMAC, owned by the state government, has been running liquor retail outlets in Tamil Nadu since 2003 and before that, private businesses were permitted. The bars attached to these retail stores are however operated by private parties. The wholesale alcohol supply is also entrusted to TASMAC. Judge C Saravanan, who delivered the ruling last week (January 31), also ruled that anyone found intoxicated in a public place should be punished under the provisions of the Prohibition Act of Tamil Nadu of 1937.
The consumption of alcohol, in accordance with the law and the rules derived therefrom, is only permitted in a private space and/or at home. If TASMAC is to continue to encourage the consumption of alcohol in so-called bars, the substantive law under the law must be changed, taking into account changes in society and in light of the Supreme Court’s decision taken in 2004 The practice of keeping bars being in vogue since 2003, which was not strictly in accordance with the provisions of the 1937 law and Article 47 (relating to public health and relating to prohibition) of the Constitution, the legislature can pass appropriate legislation to change the law, however the judge said.
Until the law is amended and appropriate rules are developed which are in sync and conform to the provisions of the Prohibition Act 1937, TASMAC will refrain from granting licenses/permits to applicants and d ‘other people to provide a support service or a business in the sale of snacks. or collecting used bottles, the judge said. TASMAC may take appropriate action to recall the requested tender, instead of encouraging violation of the law by its consumers. Business opportunism to make a profit cannot justify maintaining the bars, the judge added.
The judge issued the decision while rejecting a batch of more than 250 writ petitions from former bar owners challenging the tender launched by TASMAC on December 14, 2021 inviting applications for the management of restaurants in bars ( attached to retail outlets), numbering in the thousands. the state.
Under the law, TASMAC had only been given the power to engage solely in the wholesale and retail sale of liquor. Power has not been given to allow consumers to drink alcohol in public or in so-called bars. It cannot be taken as encouraging the violation of section 4-A of the 1937 Act, even though the intention of introducing this section was to discourage people from traveling to wetlands and returning to drunk in the drylands when the ban was still in effect, the judge said.
In its current form, the provision does not allow a person to be in public while intoxicated. Therefore, the TASMAC Respondents, as a state monopoly, can only be limited to the wholesale and retail sale of liquor/liquor and cannot be seen actively encouraging a person to consume alcohol. alcohol in the public space and breaking the law. TASMAC’s practice of allowing the proliferation of bars within the meaning of the Tamil Nadu Liquor Retailing Rules 2003 (in shops and bars) is contrary to the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition Act of 1937, the judge said and ordered TASMAC to take action. to close bars adjoining TASMAC stores within six months.
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