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Hooch tragedies kill the poor, not the man who can afford pricey whisky, SC tells Punjab

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File
| Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Supreme Court on Monday criticised the Punjab government for treating the rampant illegal liquor trade mafia in the State with “kid gloves”.

A Bench of Justices M.R. Shah and M.M. Sundresh said the blind eye and active connivance of politicians, the police and authorities would affect the State and leave tragic consequences in the lives of the poor.

“Who do you think are the consumers of spurious liquor? The person who drinks expensive whisky? It is the poor,” Justice Shah addressed the Punjab government side.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, said 31,767 criminal cases were registered between 2019-2021 and 1,270 illegal breweries, bottling plants and distilleries were unearthed and destroyed in the State.

“However, there is no information and hardly anything done to arrest the owners or the people behind these units… All the police have done is to charge a few labourers,” Mr. Bhushan submitted.

‘Only 13 FIRs filed’

He said only 13 First Information Reports (FIRs) were filed under the Punjab Excise Act during the period. Of these, chargesheets were filed in only three while investigation was still pending in the remaining nine.

“The very fact that there are so many illegal breweries functioning shows the State machinery is not functioning… if you close one unit, two will appear somewhere else in different names,” Justice Sundresh observed.

The court ordered the Excise department to file an affidavit with details of the cases registered, against whom, the offences involved and chargesheets filed, arrests made so far, details of licences if any of the breweries, etc.

Hooch tragedies kill poor people, the court said.

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