Days after being highly criticised for passing a bill allowing 12-hour work in factories, the Tamil Nadu government has once again got into a huge controversy by issuing a Government Order (GO) allowing liquor in banquets, marriage halls, sports stadiums and house functions.
In a GO issued on March 18, which came to light only on Monday, the state government has brought amendments to the Tamil Nadu Liquor (Licence and Permit) Rules, 1981. The amendment facilitates possession and serving of liquor on commercial premises such as marriage halls, banquet halls and sports stadiums, as well as non-commercial premises such as households hosting celebrations, functions and parties.
“In exercise of the powers conferred by section 54 of the Tamil Nadu prohibition Act , 1937 (Tamil Nadu Act X of 1937), the Governor of Tamil Nadu hereby makes the following amendments to the Tamil Nadu Liquor (Licence and Permit) Rules 1981,” reads the GO.
The amendments have been made to Rule no. 17, in sub-rule (a), under the heading “(A) Licences for Liquor used for consumption”. The social licence aims at facilitating the serving of liquor to guests, visitors and participants of international and national summits and events, conferences, celebrations, festivals and at public events at a place specified by the licensee and the licensor. Till now, the licences are issued only for clubs and star hotels by the prohibition department.
The GO issued by the Home, Prohibition and Excise Department says the new rule inserted shall be called as “XI-C Special licence for possession and serving of liquor”. The amended rule is that “F.L.12 special licence valid for specific time duration for one or more days shall be issued by the Deputy Commissioner/Assistant Commissioner (Excise) with the prior approval of the District collector on payment of licence fees for possession and serving of Indian Made Foreign Spirits and Imported Foreign Liquor to the guests, visitors and participants during International/ national summits and events and conferences/celebrations/ festivals, etc., in a marked place specified by licence and licensor.”
As per the GO, the licensee can obtain a no-objection certificate from the Police Commissioner for events held in the Corporation limits and from the Superintendent of Police for events held in the districts. Also the licensee can purchase the supplies from the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation Limited (TASMAC) wholesale depot nearest to the place of the event. TASMAC is a company owned by the Government of Tamil Nadu, which has a monopoly over wholesale and retail vending of alcohol in Tamil Nadu.
The licensee apart from TASMAC depots can buy liquor from other sources "as the Deputy Commissioner/ Assistant Commissioner (Excise) may appoint or approve, subject to conditions as he may stipulate per quantity of the supplies approved by the Deputy Commissioner/Assistant Commissioner (Excise)”. Also the applications can be made online by anyone who conducts a public event, just seven days prior to the date of event. The applicant has to attach a copy of the original challan of the payment made to the government treasury or the state bank of India, with the date of money remittance mentioned in it.
The registration fee for obtaining the special licence in commercial spaces is Rs1 lakh for events in the municipal corporations, Rs 75,000 in municipalities and Rs 50,000 at other places. For non-commercial spaces there is no annual registration fee. In municipal corporations the fees for one day for issuing permits for conducting one event is Rs 11,000, while it is Rs. 7,500 in the municipalities and Rs 5,000 at other places. During household celebrations, special licences for one-time possession and supply of liquor is Rs 11,000 if the event is in municipal corporation limits, Rs 7,500 in municipalities and Rs 5,000 in other places.
The GO also says that the issue of liquor under FL-12 special licence will be in pegs/bottles for consumption. Also it is for the licensee to transport the liquor after obtaining a transport permit from the deputy commissioner or assistant commissioner (excise) from the district concerned.
The GO has come at a time when the DMK government under M.K. Stalin has been facing flak over its policies like 12-hour work in factories. Since alcoholism is being viewed as a major problem in the state, steps like this has also raised concerns among various quarters.
The DMK, which had promised total prohibition in the 2016 election manifesto, where it was defeated, seems to have taken a big U-turn by going to the level of allowing liquor in marriage halls during wedding ceremonies and at stadiums during national and international events.