TASMAC closure: TN to move SC against HC order

Chennai: The Madras High Court on Friday ordered closure of all state-run liquor outlets in Tamilnadu, a day after they reopened following easing of Covid-19 lockdown curbs, saying there was total violation of guidelines, but allowed door delivery through online mode.

Following this, sources said the TASMAC management has decided to approach the Supreme Court seeking relief.  Noting that there were huge crowds before the shops and no social distancing was maintained, a bench of Justices Vineet Kothari and Pushpa Satyanarayana passed the order on a miscellaneous petition filed by advocate G Rajesh, besides a plaint from Kamal Haasan-led Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM).

The bench said there was total violation of its interim order issued on Wednesday, when it declined to stay a government order allowing resumption of sale of Liquor through the latter”s outlets. Besides the guidelines issued by the state government and the TASMAC, the sole retailer of liquor in Tamilnadu, were also violated, it said.

However, the court allowed online sale of liquor and door delivery till the lockdown to check spread of coronavirus was over. After a dry spell of 43 days due to the COVID-19 lockdown since March 24, liquor sales resumed at the TASMAC outlets in Tamilnadu except Chennai on Thursday.

Heavy rush was witnessed at most places with people standing in serpentine queues even as the move to allow sale of liquor came in for flak from opposition parties and others, who raised apprehensions that it would lead to further spread of the coronavirus, which as of Friday has affected over 6,000 people in the state.

On Wednesday, the bench had directed the government to ensure strict implementation of all appropriate rules, as notified by the state, including maintenance of social distancing at liquor shops while allowing the resumption. When the matter came up on Friday, petitioner Rajesh submitted there was a total violation of the guidelines framed as per G.O. No 223 of May 5 and also the norms stipulated by TASMAC and the court. While submitting some photographs and visuals of media reports, he said:

‘It is reported through visual media that officials of TASMAC and as well as the Police officials were unprepared to manage overcrowding at the shops.’ The state government had earlier decided to open the liquor retail outlets, citing Centre relaxing the lockdown norms in this connection, besides pointing out at tipplers in border districts making a beeline to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka where the liquor sales resumed on 4 May.

NT Bureau