KOCHI: It's time for a different culture instead of exhibiting one's urge or likeness to have alcohol on the road, the Kerala High Court said on Friday.
This observation of the court came while it directed the State government and its Beverages Corporation (BEVCO) to set up liquor shops in a civilised and cultured manner rather than having them in a shabby manner. The High Court said that people are scared of such shops coming to their areas as the environment becomes vitiated since the outlets are so dirty.
"Please understand you are selling it (alcohol) to our citizens. You are not selling it to aliens. Our citizens have a basic right to be treated as citizens," Justice Devan Ramachandran said.
"Let us now have a different culture, rather than one of exhibiting our appetite for liquor on the roads. As an ordinary citizen, let me tell you that people are scared when such a shop comes in the vicinity. We have received so many complaints with photographs in the past weeks regarding such shops and they are shocking," he added.
"Women and kids cannot walk past such shops at any point of time. Even men find it difficult to walk there. What kind of signal are we giving to society? Set up shops in a civilised manner and ensure they function in a cultured way, like any other shop, and people will not oppose it," the court said.
It asked BEVCO and the government to treat liquor like any other commodity instead of like contraband. "Like in other parts of the country, deal with it in a civilised manner instead of having people queueing outside the shops and on the roads for hours on end. People living in the area are not able to move about due to the queues," it added.
The government said it was considering remedial options like opening the bar and wine shops from 9 AM onwards, permitting opening of all registered liquor outlets and seeking help from theKerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) for more facilities to relocate or set up the BEVCO outlets.
The court said it was happy some steps have been taken but the battle has only begun and the war is on. It further said the action has been taken only four years after its judgement in 2017 and that too only after much prodding. "This is how judgements of the court are being considered. No authority looks into it unless we follow it up by some method. We are forced to follow it up many times," the court said.
On July 5, 2017, the court had directed the State and BEVCO to ensure no nuisance is caused to businesses and residents of an area in Thrissur due to a BEVCO outlet there. It had also observed that the people queuing to buy liquor was an affront to the collective dignity of the citizenry of the State and had also suggested to BEVCO to take remedial measures.
As the court's directions had not been complied with, the petitioners moved a contempt plea and the judge directed the excise commissionerate tolaunch a comprehensive audit of the facilities and suitability of each BEVCO retail liquor outlet in Kerala.
Today, the court said that according to the quality audit carried out of 96 BEVCO outlets, there were deficiencies like lack of parking facilities, causing traffic blocks and insufficient space in the shop/building.
The excise commissionerate and BEVCO said steps have been taken to shift the 96 shops to another location but this would take time due to COVID-19 related issues.
The court then directed the excise commissionerate and BEVCO to inform it on August 10 the steps taken to shift the shops and facilities available at and quality of the remaining outlets and to ensure these outlets do not cause any disturbance or inconvenience to the general public.