Read Order: Adv. K Vijayan vs State of Kerala

Pankaj Bajpai

Kochi, July 8, 2021: Observing that health is more important than revenue, the Kerala High Court has issued directions to the state government to file a detailed report regarding failure to observe Covid appropriate behaviour outside state-run Beverage Corporation (Bevco) liquor outlets. 

A Division Bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly, while hearing a PIL, noted that even though periodic orders are issued by the Central and State governments regarding Covid protocol guidelines, they do not seem to be observed in letter and spirit at some places particularly at liquor shops.

The Bench observed that despite clear warnings about serious consequences due to lapse in following the pandemic restrictions, no action has been taken against the defaulters so far.

Counsel for the petitioner C Rajendran submitted that because of the government’s policy directing bars and hotels to sell liquor at the same retail price as offered by Bevco outlets, most bars and hotels have stopped selling liquor as it would affect their profit margin. Consequently, people have been flocking to Bevco outlets en-masse and are seen crowding at the stores without complying with the physical distancing COVID protocols.

On being questioned by the court, the State Attorney submitted that suitable action would be taken to avoid crowding and queues at the liquor shops. He further submitted that strict compliance of Covid protocol would be ensured in all liquor shops run by Bevco.

The High Court was also informed that there was violation of its 2017 judgment in Hindustan Paints vs State of Kerala, that had ordered that the Kerala State Beverage Corporation (KSBC) is the best authority to take remedial measures to ensure that long queues are avoided outside liquor stores.  

For violation of the above mentioned judgement of the Kerala HC, a contempt petition has been filed and the writ court has directed the Excise Commissioner, Thiruvananthapuram to appear in person. Since the contempt petition is stated to be posted for the next date, the Bench declined to entertain any submission as regards the contempt case.

“It is apparently evident from the photographs produced along with these writ petitions, there is violation of Covid protocol,” said the Bench. 

Hence, the High Court asked the State Attorney to file a detailed report as regards the failure to observe Covid protocol in the shops. Further, the Bench also directed the Excise Commissioner to file a detailed statement regarding the failure to follow Covid appropriate behaviour at these shops.

The High Court added that in the present time, the state of Kerala ranks top in Covid-19 cases.“Health is more important than revenue,” the bench said.  

While the government is trying to reduce the number of Covid cases by taking appropriate measures, vaccination, etc, simultaneously crowding at public places should not be allowed, more particularly, in liquor shops, the Bench said. 

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