Madras HC orders all bars in retail stores to close. Details here

CHENNAI : The Madras High Court on Friday ordered the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) to shut down all bars established in its retail outlets across the state in six months.

The decision is bound to affect state revenue and consumers of alcoholic beverages in the state.

TASMAC, owned by the state government, has been running liquor retail outlets in Tamil Nadu since 2003 and before that, private businesses were permitted.

The bars attached to these retail stores are however operated by private parties. The wholesale alcohol supply is also entrusted to TASMAC.

Judge C Saravanan also ruled that anyone found intoxicated in a public place should be punished under the provisions of the Prohibition Act of Tamil Nadu 1937.

The consumption of alcohol, in accordance with the law and the rules derived therefrom, is only permitted in a private space and/or at home.

If TASMAC is to continue to encourage the consumption of alcohol in so-called bars, the substantive law under the law must be changed, taking into account changes in society and in light of the Supreme Court’s decision taken in 2004 .

Since the practice of keeping bars had been in vogue since 2003, which was not strictly in accordance with the provisions of the 1937 law and Article 47 (relating to public health and prohibiting) of the Constitution, the legislator may pass appropriate legislation to change the law, however, the judge said.

Until the law is amended and appropriate rules are developed which are in sync and conform to the provisions of the Prohibition Act 1937, TASMAC will refrain from granting licenses/permits to applicants and d ‘other people to provide a support service or a business in the sale of snacks. or collecting used bottles, the judge said.

TASMAC may take appropriate action to recall the requested tender, instead of encouraging violation of the law by its consumers. Business opportunism to make a profit cannot justify maintaining the bars, the judge added. J

The judge issued the ruling while denying a batch of more than 250 writ petitions from former bar owners challenging the tender launched by TASMAC on December 14, 2021 inviting applications for the management of restaurants in the “ bars’ (attached to outlets), numbering in the many thousands across the state.

Under the law, TASMAC had only been given the authority to engage in the wholesale and retail sale of liquor only. Power has not been given to allow consumers to drink alcohol in public or in so-called “bars”.

It cannot be taken as encouraging the violation of section 4-A of the 1937 Act, even though the intention of introducing this section was to discourage people from going to “wet” areas and returning while intoxicated in “dry” areas when the ban was still in effect. in effect, the judge said.

In its current form, the provision does not allow a person to be in public while intoxicated.

Therefore, the TASMAC Respondents, as a state monopoly, can only be limited to the “wholesale” and “retail” sale of alcohol/liquor and cannot be seen as encouraging actively a person to drink alcohol in public and break the law.

TASMAC’s practice of allowing the proliferation of ‘Bar’ within the meaning of the Tamil Nadu Liquor Retail Rules 2003 (in shops and bars) is contrary to the provisions of the Prohibition Act of Tamil Nadu of 1937, the judge said and ordered TASMAC to take action to close bars adjoining TASMAC stores within six months.

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