Kerala HC to hear VM Sudheeran's plea against increasing liquor outlets

V M Sudheeran, in his plea filed through advocate Kaleeswaram Raj, has claimed that increasing the number of liquor outlets would increase the nuisance caused to the public at large by such shops. Photo: Manorama/File

Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a plea moved by senior Congress leader V M Sudheeran, opposing the enhancement of liquor outlets in the state as suggested by the Excise Commissionerate and Beverages Corporation (Bevco).

Justice Devan Ramachandran asked the High Court Registry to register the revision petition moved by Sudheeran, also a former MP, and to list it for hearing on November 25.

During the brief hearing, senior government pleader S Kannan, appearing for the Excise Commissionerate, told the court that the "strict directions" have been given to Bevco and Consumerfed, which operate liquor outlets in the state, to provide more facilities like parking area and walk-in option, to the customers.

Bevco's request to set up 175 more outlets was also being considered by the government, a statement filed by the Excise Commissionerate said.

The court, after perusing the statement, said that besides parking areas, public urinals should also be provided as people who stand in queues to purchase liquor from these outlets are often found urinating right there on the roadside making it difficult for women and children to pass by there.

"I am not concerned about steps you (government) take, I am concerned with the results. I am more concerned that people who do not drink, women and children are not subjected to this annoyance," Justice Ramachandran said.

Sudheeran, in his plea filed through advocate Kaleeswaram Raj, has claimed that increasing the number of liquor outlets would increase the nuisance caused to the public at large by such shops.

The suggestion for enhancing the liquor outlets in the state by 175 more was mooted during the hearing on November 9 of a contempt plea which was filed claiming non-compliance of its 2017 judgement, 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.

Sudheeran has claimed in his petition that the intent of the high court in the 2017 verdict and the subsequent orders in the contempt plea was to ensure reduction of queues outside liquor outlets and not to enhance their numbers.

The Excise Commissionerate and state-run Beverages Corporation (BEVCO) had told the court on November 9 that sanctioning more outlets could ease the pressure on the existing 306 licensed liquor shops.

They had said that while in Kerala there was 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.

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