Can hotels, clubs sell liquor round the clock? Madras High Court asks Tamil Nadu government
A government transport driver’s plea against the setting up of liquor bar in Kumbakonam has prompted the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court to quiz the State on the grant of FL2 and FL3 liquor licenses in Tamil Nadu.
Among other queries, the Court has also queried whether establishments granted such licenses are allowed to sell liquor round the clock.
The petitioner before the Bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and B Pugalendhialleged that one Good Luck Recreation Club was seeking to start a liquor bar in a busy area within prohibited distance from a nearby school and a church.
Therefore, he approached the High Court to restrain the concerned district authorities from giving the FL2 licence sought by the club.
As per the Tamil Nadu Liquor (Licence and Permit) Rules, 1981, FL2 licences are issued for the possession of liquor by a non-proprietary club for supply to its members.
An FL3 licence is issued for liquor possession by Star hotels for supply to foreign tourists, foreigners resident in India holding personal permits and also Indians holding personal permits for consumption.
The Court in this case proceeded to pass an interim order restraining the grant of liquor permit as the proposed shop was said to be within 50 meters from the school.
Notably, the Court took note of submissions that FL2 and FL3 licences were being used to sell liquor like TASMAC shops (State-owned liquor vending outlets), regardless of whether the customers were members of a club or inmates of a hotel. As a result, the income of TASMAC shops were also affected, the Court was told.
In this backdrop, the Court was prompted to seek the State’s response on the sale of liquor in Tamil Nadu, including on the following questions:
- How many FL2 and FL3 licences are issued in the State of Tamil Nadu?
- What is the quantity of liquor supplied to the licence holders in the past five years?
- How is compliance with Rule 17 of the Tamil Nadu Liquor (Licence and Permit) Rules ensured after the grant of liquor permits?
- Have complaints been filed against the licence holders for violations of Rule 17 and has action been taken against violators?
- How many shops with FL2 / FL3 licence are running in the State, as on date, without complying with the Tamil Nadu Liquor (Licence and Permit) Rules?
- Whether shops holding FL2 / FL3 licence can serve liquor round the clock without time restrictions? If there are any time restrictions, how is the same ensured and what is the action taken against those outlets, which are serving liquor round the clock?
Both the State’s Home, Prohibition and Excise Department and the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation Limited (TASMAC) were impleaded as parties to the matter suo motu. Advocate A Kannan agreed to assist the Court in the matter as Amicus Curiae.
The matter was, thereafter, posted to be taken up next on December 7.
Anyone can knock the Court’s door for a genuine case, personal or public: Madras High Court
While passing the order, the Bench also had occasion to emphasise that anyone requiring genuine assistance from the Court is entitled to approach it.