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High Court Modifies Timings In Prohibitory Order Directing Closure Of Toddy & Liquor Shops

A writ petition was filed before the Kerala High Court challenging a prohibitory order dated April 09 issued by the District Collector directing the closure of all Toddy Shops, Beer Parlours, Wine Parlours and Bars to prohibit the sale of liquor and other intoxicants within Thrissur Taluk from 2 am on April 19 to 2 pm on April 20 due to Thrissur Pooram.

Justice Shoba Annamma Eapen observed that the District Collector passed the prohibitory order to prevent any untoward incident and for public good since a lot of devotees and non-devotees will be gathering to watch the Thrissur Pooram. However, the Court stated that the closure of shops selling liquor, toddy etc for almost two days would cause huge losses to persons who pay huge license fees to run toddy and liquor shops.

Accordingly, the Court modified the timings in the prohibitory order and held thus:

“The prohibited time period stipulated in the impugned order passed by the District Collector as “from 2 am on 19.04.2024 to 2 pm on 20.04.2024” shall stand modified as “from 2 am on 19.04.2024 to 10 am on 20.04.2024”.”

The Counsel for petitioners Section 54 of Abkari Act could be invoked by the Distrct collector to order closure of shops selling liquor or intoxicating drug only if there is a law and order situation or if there is a reasonable apprehension of breach of peace and public tranquility. It was further argued that there were no untoward incidents in the past years due to sale of liquor during the days of Thrissur Pooram, except an incident in 2013.

The Court noted that Thrissur Pooram is admittedly one of the biggest festivals in Kerala in which thousands of people including women and children participate. It stated that when so many persons gather for a festival, the crowd might be unlimited, and the prohibitory order was passed for public good to maintain peace and public order.

“A prohibitory order against sale of liquor for one or two days, especially with the object of maintaining peace for public good and preservation of public order, may cause loss to the petitioners. However, when there is a huge gathering of devotees and non-devotees to watch the visual and rhythmic delight offered, it is only common that many untoward incidents may happen, which are not reported”, stated the Court.

Considering the loss faced by the petitioners due to the closure of toddy and liquor shops, the Court modified the timings in the prohibitory order since the main festival on April 19.

The Court also gave liberty to the petitioners to approach the Government with representations for the remission of the license fee for April 19 since huge amounts are paid as licenses in a year for selling liquor, toddy etc. It said, “Petitioners are at liberty to file representations before the government for remission of licence fee for 19.04.2024. On receipt of such representations, the government shall consider the same favourably in accordance with law.”

As such, the writ petition was disposed of.

Citation: 2024 LiveLaw Ker 252

Case Title: Suresh Kumar K R V District Magistrate (District Collector) & Connected Cases

Case Number: WP(C) NO. 15916 OF 2024 & Connected Cases

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