The Kerala High Court on Wednesday expressed its displeasure over violation of COVID protocols by people thronging outside liquor outlets run by the Beverages Corporation (BEVCO) here and asked the state government what steps it has taken against it.
A bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly was displeased with the open violation of the COVID social distancing protocols outside liquor outlets of BEVCO and inaction of the police personnel present at the spot, a lawyer associated with the matter said.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by a lawyer – Vijayan – who has sought directions to the state to allow bars and hotels to sell liquor at the same rates as the outlets of BEVCO to prevent overcrowding at these shops during the pandemic.
Advocate C Rajendran, who represented Vijayan in court, said that the bench was displeased after it saw the photographs attached with the petition of “overcrowding outside the liquor outlets with the police standing there as mute spectators”.
He said that the court asked the state government what steps it has taken to deal with the situation and to prevent it from happening again.
According to the petition, filed through advocate B K Gopalakrishnan, the state government had prohibited sale of alcohol in Kerala during the second wave of COVID-19 and liquor shops were reopened only on June 17.
However, as the government decided to increase the wholesale profit of BEVCO, the sole distributor of liquor in the state, from 8 per cent to 25 per cent, bars and hotels were forced to close sales of all kinds of alcohol except beer, the plea has claimed.
As a result, despite the COVID-19 infection rate being above 10 per cent, people thronged liquor outlets of BEVCO, without following the protocols on social distancing, to purchase alcohol as it was not available elsewhere.
The petitioner has sought directions to the government to ensure sale of liquor at the bars and hotels and to prevent violation of COVID-19 protocols.