A PIL, Public Interest Litigation, was filed by the petitioner seeking the issuance of a writ of mandamus to the respondents to evolve effective and speedy measures for the sale of liquor to avoid gathering of people at Bevco outlets and thereby prevent overcrowding. Additionally, the Kerala High Court suo motu registered public interest litigation by taking note of a letter pertaining to “crowding and queues in front of liquor shops during the Covid-19 pandemic situation.” Photographs were appended to the letter and it showed large gatherings in front of liquor shops. There was no compliance to Covid-19 protocol such as social distancing and the shops were located on roadsides and near to residential buildings.
Contentions in the petition
The learned State Attorney submitted that directions have already been issued by the State Government regarding the opening of liquor shops and maintenance of Covid protocol such as wearing masks, using sanitizer and practising social distancing.
Furthermore, it was submitted that the Kerala State Beverages (M&M) Corporation Limited has also issued circulars to Regional managers and Warehouse managers to strictly follow Covid protocol. The counsel appearing for the Kerala State Bevco submitted that the surge was because it had opened the liquor shops after a period of time.
Observations of Kerala HC
The Court observed that even though the Centre and the State Governments have issued orders pertaining to Covid protocol guidelines, it has not been complied with, especially at liquor shops.
The Court also observed that though
“it is clearly mentioned in the orders that any lapse in following the restrictions would be viewed seriously, no action has been taken against the defaulters so far.”
Furthermore, the Court stated that
“the State of Kerala stands No. 1 in Covid-19 cases. Government, on the one hand, is trying to reduce the number of Covid cases, by taking appropriate measure, vaccination, etc. Simultaneously, crowding at public places should not be allowed, more particularly, in liquor shops.”
Kerala High Court’s Decision
The Court directed the Excise commissioner, Thiruvanthapuram to appear in person and also file a detailed statement regarding failure to follow Covid Protocol guidelines in liquor shops. Referring to submissions made by the Learned State Attorney, the Court directed the Attorney to file a detailed report regarding the failure to observe Covid protocol in liquor shops. The matter has been listed for hearing on July 13th 2021.