The Madras High Court has asked the government of Tamil Nadu not to open any liquor shops for three months after complaints that it did not comply with the Supreme Court order on relocating roadside liquor shops.

Unlike in most states in India, alchohol shops in Tamil Nadu are run directly by the state government under a corporation known as Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation or TASMAC. The only exception is for local liquor.

The High Court move comes after the opposition party DMK complained that the state government controlled by AIADMK is flagrantly flouting the Supreme Court’s order on roadside outlets.

In an order issued last year, the Supreme Court had directed all state governments to have all liquor shops located within 500 meters of national and state highways moved further away.

Most state governments were hoping for a stay or postponement and did not make adequate preparations, resulting in closure of thousands of such shops across the country on Apr 1 when the order came into effect.

In states like Kerala, which also has a government monopoly on the sale and distribution of foreign liquor, the shops were shut down on Apr 1, but most of these were relocated and reopened within two weeks.

According to the SC order, outlets should be located 220 metres from the outer edge of the highways in towns with population less than 20,000 and 500 meters in other places.

TASMAC was established in 1983 by the Chief Minister M. G. Ramachandran (MGR) as a wholesale supplier.

In October 2003, it was made the only retailer as well by the AIADMK government. By 2004 all private outlets selling alcohol were either shut down or taken over by the company.

The DMK government of M. Karunanidhi which took power in 2006, did not revise its predecessor’s policy and TASMAC continued to control the alcohol industry in the state.

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