On Thursday, the Madras High Court rejected a public interest litigation petition that argued that installing automatic vending machines to dispense liquor bottles and cans at Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (Tasmac) elite shops in shopping malls would allow under-21s to buy alcohol.
After Additional Advocate General J. Ravindran argued that a malicious campaign had made it appear as if the vending machines had been installed in common areas inside malls and anyone could take a liquor bottle from them, a vacation Bench of Justices A.D. Jagadish Chandira and C. Saravanan denied the petition.
If malls had vending machines where anybody could take a booze bottle,
The AAG stated just four vending machines had been installed, all within Tasmac’s exclusive stores at Forum Mall in Vadapalani, Ten Square Mall in Koyambedu, Express Avenue Mall in Royapettah, and Phoenix Mall in Velachery. Elite store personnel monitored all vending machines.
He stated Rule 11A of the Tamil Nadu Liquor Vending (In Shops and Bars) Rules of 2003 forbids selling or dispensing liquor to under-21s. Tasmac licensees may request proof of age if they have questions.
Tasmac management had previously written circulars to all employees urging them to follow the law. The AAG claimed that the PIL petitioner, Thoothukudi attorney B. Ramakumar Adityan, was wrong to worry about underage drinking.
The law officer also informed the court that it was unclear where the petitioner got his claim in his affidavit that Tasmac planned to deploy 800 automatic liquor selling machines across the State. He maintained this claim was unfounded and undocumented.
S. Sankar, the petitioner’s attorney, said comparable machines had been put in Western nations, but they required identification to dispense liquor bottles, preventing underage access. He said Tasmac had made no such provision.
In his affidavit, the litigant worried that automatic vending machines would make it easier for minors to get alcohol, citing recent incidents of schoolchildren, both boys and girls, being found intoxicated and their videos going viral on social media.