The Kerala High Court on Thursday said that had it not intervened to reduce queues outside state-run Beverages Corporation (BEVCO) liquor outlets, "we would have been sitting on a catastrophic time bomb". The court also told BEVCO that merely because it was the highest revenue making entity in Kerala does not mean it was doing a good job.
"You should see the fallout. Because of this industry, look at the number of people who go to the public health system. Look at the number of people likely to be affected by COVID-19," Justice Devan Ramachandran said. The judge also said that there were still queues outside BEVCO outlets, despite directions of the excise department and the high court to prevent the same.
The court further said that BEVCO appeared to be sitting in judgment over directions of the excise department to relocate 96 outlets which were found to be lacking in essential infrastructure to cater to customers and prevent long queues. It said the directions of the excise department are binding upon BEVCO.
BEVCO, in its defense, said that it has shifted 3 of its outlets and 24 more would be relocated immediately. Besides that it has informed the excise department that another 24 outlets, found to be lacking necessary infrastructure, can be upgraded to cater to customers properly.
Another 38 shops, which were identified for relocation by the excise department, have the necessary infrastructure and need not be relocated, BEVCO told the court and added that this aspect has been communicated to the excise department for its approval.BEVCO said that both aspects have been put before the excise department for its consideration and its decision on them is awaited.
The court, thereafter, listed the matter for hearing on September 16 on which date the state government has been directed to inform it about the action taken by the excise department on the issues placed before it by BEVCO.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.