CUTTACK: In a landmark judgment that could change the way liquor shop licences are granted in the State, the High Court has held that the State Government is duty-bound to honour the will of the people and local representatives while permitting opening of liquor outlets.
The will of the people must prevail over the intention of the Government for grant of liquor shop licence in a particular area. Achieving revenue collection target cannot be a ground for opening of liquor shops, the court observed.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice V Gopalagowda and Justice B N Mohapatra said the Government is duty-bound to ensure that the rule of law is maintained and for that it should take effective steps to check sale of spurious liquor that often results in loss of lives. The Government, the Bench said, cannot take advantage of its own inaction, latches and failure to prevent sale of spurious liquor by opening new liquor shops.
The directive came in response to a PIL filed by one Laxmi Charan Patra of Ganjam district. He had challenged opening of a new IMFL Off shop at Singipur under Pattapur police station within Digapahandi Excise limits.
The petitioner alleged that the authorities were trying to open the liquor shop in gross violation of the excise law and ignoring the objections raised by local populace and people’s representatives like sarpanch and chairman of panchayat samiti of that area. Singipur, Patra pointed out, is a very tiny village with people mostly belonging to BPL category. Opening of liquor shop in such an area would not be in public interest, the petitioner maintained.
The court observed that both the State and the Centre have introduced several schemes for the uplift of the weaker sections. The Government should curb illegal sale of spurious liquor in an effective manner instead of opening liquor shops in the locality against the will of the people.
Due to opening of liquor shops in rural and slum areas, the Bench remarked, a substantial portion of earning goes towards consumption of liquor which not just affects the health and financial conditions of the earner, it ruins the family life. Therefore, whenever there is opposition from people or from people’s representatives to opening of liquor shops, the Government should refrain from doing it, the Bench said.
“Needless to say, if the objections raised are not accepted, then the very system of local self- governance enshrined in the Constitution will be an illusion,” the Bench remarked.