The Madras High Court on Wednesday decided to hear on July 24, a case challenging a Government Order (G.O.) issued on April 24 permitting the serving of liquor to guests at national or international conferences/summits at conference halls, convention centres (other than those in educational institutions) and in other venues such as stadia hosting sports events of national or international importance.
Chief Justice S.V. Gangapurwala and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu fixed the date for hearing after Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram told the court that the G.O. had been issued on a par with the practice being followed in other States, where the serving of liquor was permitted during events such as celebrations after cricket matches. The A-G requested the court to take up the case for hearing at the earliest.
The submission was made during the hearing of a public interest litigation petition filed by K. Balu, president of the Advocates’ Forum for Social Justice, challenging another G.O. issued on March 18 which provided for grant of special licences to serve liquor even for certain events conducted at wedding halls and also for household celebrations, functions and parties. All these provisions however, were deleted from the amended G.O. issued on April 24.
However, when the PIL petition challenging the March 18 G.O. was listed for admission before a Division Bench of Justices S. Vaidyanathan and R. Kalaimathi on April 26, the judges granted an interim stay. The A-G on Wednesday told the Bench led by the Chief Justice that the case challenging the March 18 GO had become infructuous since that G.O. had been replaced with the April 24 G.O. which does not permit serving of liquor at wedding halls and household celebrations.
On the other hand, the petitioner’s counsel M.R. Jothimanian told the Bench that his client had filed a new writ petition challenging the validity of the April 24 G.O. too, and hence, both cases could be heard together. The Bench led by the Chief Justice accepted his request and directed the Registry to list both the cases on July 24. It also extended the interim stay till then as requested by the petitioner’s counsel.