Taking note of protests against the liquor outlets in Tamil Nadu, the Madras High Court on Friday sought a detailed report on the matter from top government officials for giving guidelines on handling the situation. A bench of justices N Kirubakaran and V Parthiban sought the report while quashing an FIR against a group of supporters of Naam Tamizhar Katchi which had staged a protest against the opening of a TASMAC Indian-Made Foreign Liquor shop in a residential area in Thirumullaivoil.
The bench suo motu made the state home secretary, the director general of police, the Chennai police commissioner and the general manager of TASMAC as parties to the issue and asked from them the status reports on the situation and posted the matter for further hearing on June 12.
Observing that the protesters in Thirumullaivoil were justified in their agitation as there was a hurry in opening the liquor shop in the residential area, the bench ordered the release of all those arrested in the case by 6 PM on Friday.
The bench gave its order while adjudicating the bail pleas of one Prasanna and 20 others, arrested for their recent protest against opening of the liquor outlet.
Noting that the only violent act alleged to have been committed by the petitioners was setting afire a flex board in front of the shop, the court directed them to pay Rs 1,000 to the state legal aid services authority.
The bench said in view of the nuisance being created by the drunkards, others were very much worried and had been staging demonstrations.
“No doubt demonstration should be staged without any violence… It is very difficult to assess the mood of the masses and this kind of things (setting fire to flex board) cannot be avoided when an agitation is staged,” it said.
The judges, however, made it clear that the observation does not mean that the court was encouraging any violence.
“Any form of violence should be discouraged and deprecated,” the bench said ordering the petitioners to pay a fine of Rs Rs 1,000 in a week to the state’s Legal Services Authority for setting afire the flex board.
Taking into account the number of agitations being staged by public, especially women, the bench said it was impleading the authorities to give more guidelines on handling of the protests.
It directed the authorities to submit details on the agitations staged against TASMAC shops, violence, if any, and the arrests made so far in this regard.
The court also sought to know about the political parties involved in these agitations, the number of persons injured in the possible incidents of lathicharge by police, the number of shops relocated and the list of damages to the public properties.
The state has been witnessing sporadic protests by the residents against relocation of liquor shops following the closures of the ones falling within 500 meters of the highways as per the apex court order.
Recently, in Tirupur district a police official was caught on camera slapping a woman protesting against a liquor shop located in the area.
The incident triggered a public outrage following which the government cancelled the licence of the shop and ordered an inquiry.
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