He directed the excise department to file a report within one month on the steps taken to bring the functioning of the liquor shops upto a level as directed by the court earlier.
The court commenced hearing of the matter by referring to a letter sent by a woman, a housewife and mother, from Kottayam worried over the shifting of a liquor outlet near to a bank in her locality. In her letter dated September 7, the woman said that women and girls would find it difficult to walk past such outlets and the one she was referring to was being shifted near a bank where there was already a dearth of parking facilities.
The court asked both the Excise department and BEVCO to take a look into the issue raised by the woman in her letter. It also said to the Excise department that it would be held responsible or accountable for any such complaints that the court receives in future on this issue. The court was hearing a contempt plea which was filed claiming non-compliance of its 2017 judgment directing the state government and BEVCO to ensure that no nuisance is caused to businesses and residents of an area in Thrissur due to a BEVCO outlet there.
During the hearing, BEVCO’s lawyer suggested that each and every letter received by the court may not be gone into. To this the court said, “How many letters have I told you about? Let me tell you this is not the only one. I have received at least 50 letters by now on this. I only took up the letter which according to me was relevant.”
The judge said that the letter indicates that “people are scared” of such outlets coming up near their areas and women are scared even to come out and complain against the same. Justice Ramachandran said it takes a lot of courage on the part of someone to come out and complain against such outlets and directed the Excise department — “I want something to be done immediately”.
The court also said that it took four years for the government and BEVCO to implement the direction given in the 2017 judgement and that too happened because of the prevailing pandemic. “So sometimes COVID is good,” the judge said.
The court also refused to pass any directions on BEVCO’s oral request for directions to the state and Excise department to increase the number of liquor outlets, saying that it is for the government to take a call on that. The court listed the matter for further hearing on October 18. The high court on September 2 had said that had it not intervened to reduce queues outside BEVCO liquor outlets, “we would have been sitting on a catastrophic time bomb”.