Ban on liquor shops had hit livelihood of 3,078 toddy tappers, court told
The Supreme Court on Tuesday left it to the Kerala government to decide whether toddy shops in areas covered by local bodies or areas proximate to municipal pockets should be exempted from the nationwide prohibition on liquor sale within 500 metres along highways.
A Bench led by Chief Justice (CJI) Dipak Misra said the State governments could decide on a case by case basis whether toddy shop should be allowed to open after taking into consideration “all relevant circumstances”.
The court, however, left undecided the question whether toddy could be considered as liquor. Advocate V.K. Biju, appearing for the Vaikom Taluk Chethu Thozhilali Union, had sought for leaving the question whether toddy came under liquor.
Earlier, the Kerala government had told the top court that toddy was a “very mild alcoholic beverage” full of vitamins and used in traditional dishes.
Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, appearing for the toddy workers and shop owners, had at previous hearing argued that the SC ban on liquor shops along highways was meant to curb drunken driving alone and extending the ban to the toddy sector would rob thousands in the State of their traditional occupation.
The Supreme Court ban had claimed the livelihood of 3078 toddy tappers and closed down 520 toddy shops in the State. There was no empirical evidence to show that road deaths had been caused after consuming toddy, the senior counsel had argued.