India. Tasmac Tries to Buy Time to Identify, Shift Outlets Near Temples and Schools

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The Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) has assured the first Bench of Madras High Court that it would collect data on location of its retail shops in the State and identify those near places of worship or educational institutions in six months and shift those outlets to other permitted places in another six months.

Recording the assurance, the Bench of Chief Justice SK Kaul and Justice MM Sundresh closed a PIL and posted on September 16 the matter of fulfilling the first part of the assurance.

The PIL from social activist A Narayanan sought to declare Rule 8(1) of the Tamil Nadu Liquor Retail Vending (in Shops and Bars) Rules 2003 as unconstitutional as it lay down that “No shop shall be established in Municipal Corporations and Municipalities within a distance of 50 metres and in other areas 100 metres from any place of worship or educational institutions” and then

adds that “provided that the distance restriction shall not apply in areas designated as ‘Commercial’ or ‘Industrial’ by the Development or Town Planning Authorities.”

Narayanan prayed for a directive to ensure that no liquor shop or bar or pub or such other sets-up serving liquor was located within 500 metres in municipal corporations and municipalities and 1000 metres in other rural areas from any educational institution, hospital, place of worship and residential areas.

When the matter came up for hearing, the Additional Advocate-General produced an order passed by a division Bench of the Madurai Bench on August 27, 2015 in which Rule 8(1) of the TN Liquor Retail Vending Rules 2003 was examined in the context of “how the distance between the Tasmac shop and educational institutions has to be measured”.

The present Bench also informed the TASMAC senior counsel that in terms of the order dated August 27, 2014 in another case, reference was made in TN Survey and Boundaries Act and the Rules framed thereunder. In terms of section 4 of the said Act, the State government had to appoint Survey Officers. Measuring the distance scientifically was set out in the TN Survey and Boundaries Rules, it added.

When the matter came up on Thursday, the senior counsel for TASMAC gave the above assurance. He added that if the shops were found located as per Rule 8 (1) of the said Rules, then those shops would be shifted with the permission of the District Collector as per Rule 9. He prayed for six months time to collect the data on the location of 6,776 shops and another six months to shift them.