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A three-judge Bench of the Madras High Court headed by Chief Justice AP Sahi will hear tomorrow morning a batch of pleas concerning the closure of TASMAC or liquor shops in Tamil Nadu amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
As per a notification issued to this effect, the Bench will also comprise Justices Dr Vineet Kothari and PN Prakash. The notification states,
Both Justices Kothari and Prakash had earlier headed Division Benches that directed the closure of TASMAC shops this month, after large scale violations of safety norms when they were briefly reopened on May 7.
The Bench headed by Justice Kothari had initially declined on May 6 to allow pleas challenging the re-opening of the liquor outlets in Tamil Nadu from May 7 onwards, observing that it was a policy decision.
However, on May 8, the same Bench ordered the closure of all liquor outlets in the State until the lockdown is lifted, after noting that the precautionary directions issued for liquor sale "have been thrown into air."
On May 11 a Madurai Bench headed by Justice Prakash expressed its complete agreement with the May 8 order passed by the Principal Bench to close all TASMAC/liquor shops in Tamil Nadu, observing that, "The right of the State to carry on liquor sales via TASMAC shops is not an absolute one, but only, a qualified one under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India and when that right seeks to trample the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India, the former has to give way and remain subservient to the latter."
In the meanwhile, TASMAC had already challenged the Court-directed closure of liquor shops before the Supreme Court. The top Court is expected to take up this matter next on May 15, Friday.