The Kerala High Court on Monday severely criticised State Congress President V M Sudheeran for issuing a circular to the Congress-ruled local administration bodies in the state asking them not to issue NOCs for the bars in their areas.
The Court statements that came while considering the appeals related to granting no objection certificate (NOC) for a bar at Hotel Crowne Plaza in Maradu, a municipal area near Kochi city, has set off controversies. The division bench comprising justices Antony Dominic and Alexander Thomas, condemned Sudheeran’s circular issued on February 20 to the UDF-led civic bodies as an ‘extra-constitutional intervention’ saying that these kind of interventions from the political leaders amounted to ‘dictation’. It said that the local administration bodies should be functioning in accordance with the government’s policies and guidelines and not as per the circulars issued by the leaders of the political parties. The Court has ordered Maradu municipality to grant NOC to the hotel within two weeks. It said that the KPCC Chief had no right or authority to issue such circulars to the local administration bodies and declared the circular invalid calling it illegal. The Court added that the civic bodies need not implement the issued instructions.
Sudheeran on the other hand said that he had issued the circular with the intention of reducing liquor consumption in the state and keeping in view the people’s welfare and public interest. He added that he would not hesitate to ‘issue similar circulars as a president of a responsible organisation' since all political parties had the freedom to give guidelines to its peoples' representatives. Since the High Court had made a statement without hearing Sudheeran’s view on the matter, ‘the remarks were against natural justice’, he said. The UDF government has been trying to impose a step by step liquor ban aiming a total liquor prohibition in the state in the coming years. But the people are skeptical of the government move saying that the decision was not being implemented sincerely and that it was pandering to the demands of the liquor lobby. Sudheeran, after becoming the KPCC president has been spearheading the movement.
Section 447 of the Kerala Municipality Act allows the self governing bodies to issue licenses to bars or foreign liquor shops. The democratically elected panchayats and municipalities can either issue or deny the NOC for the bars. While the political leaders often invite ‘contempt of court’ by their remarks and actions and refuse to abide by the Judiciary at times, criticisms are also being raised against the Courts for intervening into the democratic policies of the political parties and the government activities. For instance, CPM leader M V Jayarajan was sentenced to four months in jail by the High Court for contempt of court. His derogatory remarks against a High Court judge during a public speech in Kannur in the wake of court ban on rallies and roadside public meetings was critisised by the Supreme Court. In a democracy political parties have a significant role in formulating policies, Sudheeran’s issuing a circular shouldn’t be seen as a move challenging the Court. What is anticipated by the people is an equal and ardent cooperation from the Judiciary to put an end to the social evil.