The Kerala High Court on Thursday slammed a recent statement of Excise Minister K. Babu that the people will decide what they should drink and not the court.
Justice S.Siri Jagan observed: If the people can decide what they should do, why should there be laws like compulsory wearing of helmets by riders of two-wheelers. Sometimes, laws are made to protect the people against themselves. The classic example is the Abkari Act itself. Why should there be licensing (system) of liquor, if the people can decide what they should drink?
Mr. Babu had made the statement in response to a High Court suggestion for banning the sale of toddy in the State.
The Bench also pooh-poohed the argument that toddy workers would lose their jobs on account of a ban on the sale of toddy. The court pointed out that the toddy workers could be easily rehabilitated in a clean and healthy manner.
SOFT DRINKS FROM TODDY
If the State government could come out with a project for producing soft drinks from toddy, all these toddy workers could be rehabilitated in that business in a wholesome way. Even if the sale of toddy could not be prohibited, the government could ensure that only natural toddy tapped from palms was sold by the licensees, the court said.
The court made these observations while acquitting an accused from Mavelikara in an abkari case.
The judge observed that despite the increasing number of acquittals on technical grounds, the powers that be had not taken any step to remedy the situation by proceeding against the erring officials departmentally.
It was surprising that the very same powers had chosen to find fault with the High Court for pointing out the unhealthy practice in the field of sale of toddy without looking at the spirit in which the High Court had pointed out the malady.
Instead of finding ways to remedy the situation arising out of spurious toddy, most of the politicians, irrespective of their hue, had come out with a scathing attack on the High Court.
The only reason cited by them was that a corrective action would render toddy workers jobless. The number of persons consuming spurious toddy exceeded the number of toddy workers multi-fold.
Are we to understand that the politicians are more concerned about the jobs of a few toddy workers than the health of those numerous consumers of spurious toddy. Is not the health of those persons more important than the jobs of a few toddy workers. Dont the consumers have a right to get what they pay for, the Judge asked.
If those in power resorted to court-bashing, the people would believe that the priority of the government was not the welfare of the people, but mere appeasement of vote banks, the court said.