SC erases HC verdict which blamed govt as an instigator

The Supreme Court. PTI file photo

The Supreme Court has erased parts of a Madras High Court judgement which blamed the Tamil government as an “instigator” for crimes committed under the influence of liquor on the ground that the state-controlled and allowed the sale of booze through its own company.

A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari agreed with the argument of Tamil Nadu's Additional Advocate General Balaji Srinivasan, that the single judge “whimsically and arbitrarily” treated a petition filed for an anticipatory bail in a suicide case as a PIL and passed sweeping orders.

The high court, in its order on March 26, said “the government should be made liable through its Ministry of Prohibition and Excise, as an abettor of the crime under Section 107 (abetment of an offence) of the Indian Penal Code” in the application filed by M Veeraswamy alias Senthil Kumar and others

It added that the government which was selling booze to its own people cannot wash its hands of its adverse impact and should be made responsible at some point of time for increasing crimes under the influence of liquor.

Challenging the order, the state government said that just as car manufacturers were not found responsible for road accidents, cigarette manufacturers for cancer, concrete manufacturers for building breakdown, liquor vendors cannot be found to be abettors in crimes committed under the influence of alcohol.

Agreeing to the state's plea, the top court said, “we have no manner of doubt that the single judge exceeded jurisdiction under Section 438 (anticipatory bail) of the Criminal Procedure Code. Once the application for anticipatory bail was adjudicated, the other issues referred to, in our opinion, were beyond the scope of the application and being extraneous, any discussion thereupon was avoidable.”

“To observe sobriety, we say no more for the present,” the bench said, ordering for “effacing from the record” the relevant parts of the judgement, without disturbing the order on anticipatory bail.

The high court also noted that the state controlled the retail and wholesale liquor vending through the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation Ltd which reported a turnover of Rs 31,757 crore.

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