Sell Indian Made Foreign Liquor Only To Licensed Consumers: Madras High Court To State, TASMAC
In an attempt to curb the menace of alcohol abuse and underage drinking, the Madras High Court has suggested imposing a licensing regime for the sale, purchase, and usage of Indian Made Foreign Liquor.
The bench of Justice R Mahadevan and Justice Sathya Narayana Prasad asked the Centre to take the courts directions/suggestions into consideration and give instructions to the State of Tamil Nadu and Director General of Police to impose a licensing regime.
In turn, the State government was directed to give necessary instructions to the retail TASMAC outlets that only customer having an alcohol license could purchase IMFL.
The State Government shall give necessary instructions to the retail outlet shops through TASMAC that only the consumer, who has an alcohol license, can be permitted to buy Indian Made Foreign Liquor.
The court also sought for strict compliance of labelling requirements under the Food Safety and Standards (Alcoholic Beverages) Regulations, 2018 and the Food Safety and Standards (Packing and Labeling) Regulations, 2011. For more effectiveness, the court suggested that the labels displaying the price list and contact details for registering grievances could be printed in Tamil.
Further, the court asked the State government to ensure that liquor is not sold to persons below the age of 21 years. It added that the state government and the TASMAC could consider reducing the business hours of retail TASMAC outlets to six hours from 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
The directions were passed in two writ petitions seeking to regulate the sale of Indian made foreign liquor through the TASMAC outlets. One petition had sought for directions to the State and TASMAC to open all Retail Outlets, Pubs and Bars situated in Tamil Nadu between 2.00 pm and 8.00 pm only to sell all alcoholic breweries and distilleries while the second petition sought for imposing a licensing system to regulate the sale, purchase and usage of Indian Made Foreign Liquor.
The petitioners highlighted that increase in the retail outlets of TASMAC has affected the society at large. Further, there were various irregularities with respect to the sale of liquor. Though there are circulars in place stating that liquor should not be sold to those below 21 years of age, this is not being followed.
The State denied these allegations and submitted that the State was taking all possible steps to ensure a safe environment. It had already reduced the timing of TASMAC shops from 16 hours to 10 hours. The State also submitted that the State had been strictly following the policy for underage drinking.
The court opined that though the measures taken by the State were undisputed, the fact remained that liquor consumption had not reduced and was only increasing. Underage drinking has also affected the socio-economic milieu in the state and has led to an increase in the number of crimes. The court further observed that no effective action has been taken by the authorities against the violators who continued to sell alcohol to persons below 21 years of age.
Thus, even though policy decision of the government could not be interfered with judicially, the court thought it fit to issue the suggestions/directions in light of the public interest at large.
Case Title: B Ramkumar Adityan v. Additional Chief Secretary and others
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 9
Case No: Writ Petition (MD) No. 2543 of 2019