The Madras High Court on Thursday wanted the State government to explain whether any inspections were carried out in distilleries operating in the State to find out whether they adhered to the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) of 2006.
A Division Bench of Justices S. Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad directed Additional Government Pleader E. Manoharan to ascertain the status of a direction issued by the court as early as on November 17, 2017 to inspect and initiate action against erring units.
The judges pointed out that the direction had been issued by the then first Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee (now a Supreme Court judge) and Justice M. Sundar on a public interest litigation petition filed by V. Sriraman of Chennai.
The petitioner sought a direction to the State government to take action against all distilleries in the State under the FSSA for manufacturing, bottling and selling “spurious/adulterated” liquor through shops run by Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC).
His counsel E. Aadith Vijay contended that the petitioner faced a life-threatening experience after consuming alcohol purchased from one of the TASMAC shops. It was alleged that the corporation does not care about the quality of the products sold through its shops.
He referred to a newspaper report which claimed that quality checks had not been carried out by TASMAC for the last 14 years and said the bizarre situation had resulted in “spurious/adulterated/sub standard” liquor being sold in the State run liquor shops.
It was claimed in the affidavit that the petitioner and his friends suffered unusual dehydration, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain after consuming branded Indian Made Foreign Liquor purchased from TASMAC shops at Koyambedu and Kancheepuram.
Claiming that one of his friends had subjected one of the bottles of rum to quality test through the Food Safety Department, the petitioner alleged that the sample was found to be sub-standard. Therefore, there was an imminent need for the court to interfere.
However, TASMAC filed a detailed counter affidavit stoutly refuting the claim of spurious, adulterated or substandard liquor being sold through its shops.
“It is submitted that the Government of Tamil Nadu is more sensitive in the matter of maintaining public health and hence it takes utmost care for supply of liquors which conforms to I.S. specifications in TASMAC outlets,” the TASMAC Managing Director said.
In order to fulfil this task, the Excise Supervisory Officer, in the cadre of Deputy Collector, was deputed to each and every IMFL manufacturing unit in the State and they monitor the day-to-day manufacturing process in the distilleries, the court was told.