Liquor shops with long queues outside are a source of “extreme nuisance” and “great vexation” for people living or working close to such outlets, the Kerala High Court said on Tuesday and added that non-drinkers should be spared this “anti-social” scenario.
Justice Devan Ramachandran said the court was not looking to set up a five-star facility for drinkers, but it was concerned that “liquor shops still cause great vexation to people, especially women and children, in areas they are located”.
“Parents are also concerned by the bad influence such outlets could have on future generations,” the court observed and added “ordinary citizens who are not drinkers should be spared this anti-social scenario”.
The Excise Commissionerate and state-run Beverages Corporation (BEVCO) told the court that sanctioning more outlets could ease the pressure on the existing 306 licensed liquor shops.
The Excise Commissionerate, represented by the senior government pleader S Kannan, told the court that its suggestions to provide ‘walk-in’ and parking facilities at the liquor outlets was being considered.
It also said that it has requested the state government to “favourably” consider the BEVCO’s proposal to sanction 175 more outlets in Kerala.
Mr Kannan told the court that while in Kerala there is only one liquor outlet for 1.12 lakh people, in the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana the ratio was much less as there were thousands of shops there which sell alcohol.
The court said that while the government was looking into the issue, one thing that was non-negotiable was that the harassment and the disturbance being caused to the people due to these outlets “should be stopped”.
It said that just because a lot of people have not come to court because they were scared, their concerns “cannot be taken lightly” and the fact these shops cause “extreme nuisance” cannot be lost sight of.
The court said that while there has been marginal progress, the situation was “not acceptable, much less satisfactory”.
“Certainly more is required to be done,” the court said and listed the matter for hearing on November 23 and directed the Excise Commissionerate and BEVCO to apprise it on that date about the steps taken till then to provide more facilities at liquor outlets.
The court had earlier said that the only option to reduce queues outside these outlets was to have walk-in shops.
“Unless you have proper shops, like that for other commodities, things will not get better. Make it like any other shop. Instead you have numerous small dingy shops on roadsides,” the court had said.
The court was hearing a contempt plea which was filed claiming non-compliance of its 2017 judgment, directing the state government and BEVCO to ensure that no nuisance is caused to businesses and residents of an area in Thrissur due to a BEVCO outlet there.
The High Court on September 2 had said that had it not intervened to reduce queues outside BEVCO liquor outlets, “we would have been sitting on a catastrophic time bomb”.