The Kerala High Court on Tuesday came down heavily on the State government for the manner in which liquor shops are being run by the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.(My Hindustan Paints v. S Aananthakrishnan IPS).Justice Devan Ramachandran did not mince words and described a shop that he had seen a day before as being run, "like a dingy drug and gambling den that is seen in old Bollywood movies." .He expressed his disappointment with the way liquor shops seem to be run in an undignified manner, despite the previous directions of the Court and a Government Order (GO) dated August 4 which mandated that people need to be vaccinated against COVID or have a negative RT-PCR certificate to visit shops.. "How do you make our citizens do this? We are talking about the collective dignity of citizens. Just because those people are poor and hardworking and they come in the evening and they buy their liquor, their beverage, it doesn't mean you can treat them like cattle, or worse. Especially after you (State Government) told me that all those shops which do not conform to the standards are closed down", the Judge observed..Justice Ramachandran today shared photographs of the shop he had seen the previous day."It has got a barricade. If you see if, it looks scary. It's a dark room, so dark that you can't see inside it. And even in this photograph taken just this morning, you can see a few people queuing outside it. It is worse in the evening I want to know whether this shop has been found suitable by the excise commissioner", the Court said.He also remarked that had this been a shop that sold any other items, authorities would have shut it down much sooner..At an earlier hearing of the case, the State government had informed the High Court that out of over 300 Foreign Liquor outlets run by the KSBC, a whopping 96 outlets have been identified by a special audit team constituted by the Excise Commissioner as being situated in unsuitable locations and without basic adequate facilities. .It had also submitted that steps are being recommended to improve the facilities of existing shops and to shift all shops which have been identified as not having adequate facilities..The Court today asked the State, represented by Government Pleader S Kannan, if the GO dated August 4, amending covid restrictions in the State was applicable to bars and liquor shops. .Clause IV of this GO reads:"Only a person who has taken at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine before two weeks, or who are in possession of RT-PCR negative certificate taken 72 hours before or who is in possession of Covid-19 positive result more than a month old will be allowed inside (workers/visitors)in shops, markets, banks, public and private offices, financial institutions, factories, factories, industrial establishment, open tourist spaces, and other establishments"..In view of this Order, the Court asked,"How is it that you are allowing these people to buy liquor without complying with those conditions. Will not the liquor shops run by Bevco come under this? Will not bars come under this? Why do you suddenly say that this will not apply to people who buy liquor? This is so baffling, so incongruous. You said that this is the place where the largest number of people are congregating, but there seems to be no restrictions in those very same places. Whoever wants can come and queue up there for two or three hours and buy liquor." .The Court remarked that although Clause IV of the GO is under challenge before the Court, until the Court decides on whether to stay the GO, it should apply to all shops equally..Futher, the Court opined that if it is known that a vaccination certificate is required to purchase liquor, it might give an impetus to more people to voluntarily get vaccinated..Therefore the Court directed the State government and Bevco to return with answers on two specific queries:1. Is the particular shop that Justice Ramachandran pointed out not in the list of shops identified by the State to be moved to other locations?2. Why are the directions in the GO seemingly not being followed at Bevco outlets?.In a related matter, a Division Bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly had earlier observed that despite the Central and State governments issuing periodical orders regarding COVID protocol guidelines, they do not seem to be observed in letter and spirit at some places, particularly liquor shops.[COVID-19] Crowding at public places, liquor shops should not be allowed; Health is more important than revenue: Kerala High Court.The Division Bench had therefore issued directions to the State to file a detailed report as regards the failure to observe COVID protocol outside the State-run Bevco liquor outlets in Kerala. .The matter will be heard again tomorrow.