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The Madras High Court Wednesday said that liquor was an essential commodity for 30 per cent of people in Tamil Nadu and hence government-run Tasmac shops vending liquor in retail could not be ordered by it to be closed during the funeral ceremony of former President A P J Abdul Kalam.
Making this oral observation, Justice C S Karnan said "in five star hotels, liquor is served from 5am to 11pm. When people in five star hotels can drink, why not these people?"
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The judge made the observations when advocate Baalu of Advocates Forum of Social Justice filed a petition mentioning the matter and wanted the court to order closure of liquor
shops when Kalam is scheduled to be laid to rest at Rameswaram in Ramanathapuram district Thursday.
Referring to a state notification declaring public holiday for all government as well as private establishments in Tamil Nadu under Negotiable Instruments Act on Thursday, Baalu said the benefit of leave should be extended to 28,000 Tasmac employees as well.
The state's counsel, however, informed the court that a government order had already been issued declaring holiday for Tasmac shops in Ramanathapuram district for two days - July 29
and 3O - as a mark of respect to the departed soul.
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During arguments, the judge observed that he had great respect for Kalam and that was the reason why he himself was leaving for Rameswaram immediately to take part in the funeral.
"However, courts cannot direct the government to close the shops across the state without hearing the top officials of the department concerned," he said.
"We have to appreciate the policy of the government in declaring holiday and closing liquor shops for two days in Ramanathapuram district. But the court cannot interfere with the government's revenue," Justice Karnan said.