Successive governments in TN have taken a consistent policy on liquor sales despite its ills, laments Madras HC

Though policy decisions on other subjects keep changing with the change in regime, sale of liquor alone remains static, says judge

Though policy decisions on other subjects keep changing with the change in regime, sale of liquor alone remains static, says judge

While upholding the right of an elected government to review policy decisions taken by the previous government, the Madras High Court on Saturday lamented that successive governments in the State had taken a consistent policy on sale of liquor alone, though it is “detrimental to the welfare. of people and interest of the society at large. “

Dismissing a case against the government’s latest decision on establishing a cooperative training institute, Justice R. Suresh Kumar wrote: “In certain areas alone, all successful governments, for several decades in this State irrespective of the political dispensation.

“Some of such kind of decisions taken, though are detrimental to the welfare of the people and interest of the society at large in the State, the successive governments have not given up such policy because they have an eye on the revenue for the State exchequer. . ”

He went on to write: “Illustratively, this court can point out that, in respect of prohibition policy, for the past about five decades, very many successive governments have been continuously and steadily following the same prohibition policy under which the State, either through licensees or through state agency like Tasmac, made available liquor to the people … knowing well that such a policy decision is certainly injurious and detrimental to people at large and also against the growth of the state. “

The judge rued that even such policy decisions, despite being detrimental to the interests of the society at large, could not be subjected to judicial review. “Courts have laid off their hands when these policy decisions were questioned,” he said.

Therefore, the present cases filed by G. Sendrayan, president of Yercaud Lamp Cooperative Society in Salem district, challenging government’s decision to stop construction of a State-level cooperative training institute at Yercaud Taluk could not be entertained. There were no plausible reasons in the eye of law to interfere with such policy decision, the judge said.

Initially, the writ petitioner had moved the court challenging a letter written by the Registrar of Cooperative Societies on July 28, 2021 to stop construction of the training institute. The litigant pointed out the construction work had begun only after the previous AIADMK government had sanctioned ₹ 61.8 crore in December 2020 and released the first installation of 15 crore.

He wondered whether the administrative decision of the Registrar was backed by any policy decision taken by the incumbent DMK government. Subsequently, a Government Order was issued on November 16, 2021 canceling the December 2020 GO by which ₹ 61.8 crore was sanctioned. Hence, the petitioner filed another writ petition challenging the 2021 GO and claimed that it was an after thought.

However, Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram produced official files before the court and pointed out that the decision to stop the construction of a State-level institute in Yercaud was taken on July 3, 2021, at a review meeting chaired by Chief Minister MK Stalin. In the meet, the institute at Yercaud was considered a wasteful expenditure since two similar institutes were already functioning in Chennai and Madurai.

It was also found that the Yercaud institute was initially planned at only ₹ 15.84 crore but the amount was raised to ₹ 61.8 crore in 2020 without plausible reasons. The incumbent government, therefore, decided to drop this project and instead establish a national-level cooperative training institute, at a much larger scale, in Kodaikanal and use the present 4.33 acres of land at Yercaud for a tribal cooperative society, the AG said.

Convinced with his submissions, the judge held that he did not find any colorful exercise of power to interfere with the change in the policy decision. He also recalled that the courts had already approved such a change in policy decision when the previous AIADMK government decided not to shift the Legislative Assembly and Secretariat to construct a new building during the DMK regime.

Giving a piece of advice to democratically-elected governments, Justice Kumar wrote: “Merely because the earlier government was from a different political dispensation, all decisions taken by the earlier government need not be reviewed. However, certain decisions taken by the earlier government, if it is not good for the welfare of the people at large or the society, can be reviewed and alternative best administrative solution can be very well given. “

The judge had reserved orders on both the writ petitions together on December 16 and pronounced his verdict on Saturday.

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