Chennai: The Madras High Court on Tuesday stopped the Tamil Nadu government from opening or relocating the state liquor shops along the highways by reclassifying roads, saying the executive powers cannot be used to negate judicial orders.
A bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar halted the state government from opening or relocating the liquor shops by an interim injunction on two pleas, which accused the state government of trying to bypass the Supreme Court order.
Granting injunctions on the pleas by DMK leader RS Bharati and Advocates Forum for Social Justice, the bench said its directions would be valid for three months or till further orders and posted the matter for next hearing on July 10.
“It is well settled that the state cannot exercise the executive powers citing administrative needs to render a judicial order of the Supreme Court ineffective. The judicial decisions certainly cannot be frustrated by an executive order,” the bench said.
“Therefore, there will be an order of injunction, restraining the state from setting up or opening or relocating any liquor shop along any national or state highway within the distance prohibited by the Supreme Court in the garb of reclassifying the roads,” it added.
The petitions were filed after an April 21 circular of the state’s Commissioner of Municipal Administration asked all the municipal corporations and municipalities to take over the stretches of the state and national highways within their limits and submit a report by today.
The petitioners contended that the circular was intended to bypass the Supreme Court directive banning the liquor shops within 500 metres of the highways and said it was “a colourable exercise of power.”
Advocate General R Muthukumaraswamy cited the Punjab example, saying the High Court of Punjab and Haryana had upheld the decision to change the nomenclature of the roads.
The bench, after hearing the advocate general, said it was constrained to pass the interim order as he could not give an undertaking that efforts to reclassify highways would not lead to reopening of the closed liquor outlets and bars of the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC).
Petitioner Bharati’s counsel said the state government was trying to negate the apex court verdict, when even the legislature had no power to do so.
He also pointed out that the local bodies do not have the elected councils since October 2016 after expiry of their terms and said the municipal corporations, as per Article 243 of the Constitution, are self-governments and cannot adopt such resolutions.
Any act nullifying the orders of the Supreme Court would run against Article 144 of the Constitution, he argued.
The advocates forum submitted that the state government was attempting to undermine the apex court order.