Petitioners seek urgent clarification from Bench
The Supreme Court will urgently hear on Friday a batch of petitions seeking a clarification on whether toddy can be considered as liquor and toddy shops selling the beverage would be included in the nationwide ban on sale of alcohol within 500 metres of National and State highways.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on Thursday agreed with advocate V.K. Biju and Bina Madhavan, appearing for Vaikom Taluk Chethu Thozhilali Union (AITUC) and Toddy Shop Licenses Association, that the petitions should be heard urgently as it concerns the loss of employment of numerous vulnerable people who work in the toddy sector.
The advocates had mentioned the case before the Chief Justice Bench after another Bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, on December 5, recused itself from the case. The court had earlier issued notice on the petitions.
Mr. Biju argued that the liquor ban had been wrongly extended to toddy shops.
“Toddy is even exempted on dry days [days on which sale of alcohol is prohibited],” Ms. Madhavan submitted on behalf of the toddy traders from Kerala.
The traders dubbed toddy as a natural drink sourced from coconut trees in the State and with such “miniscule” alcohol content that it cannot be clubbed with any form of liquor.
They submitted in court that the ban had led to the closure of toddy shops and affected the livelihood of an already vulnerable community. The traders argued that Kerala treats toddy differently from liquor or other alcoholic drinks.