Clubs allowing members to bring liquor purchased from outside, and drink without FL-2 license. Is it permissible? Madras HC examines, Issues directions

Madras High Court: S.M. Subramaniam, J., considered the question that the consumption of liquor in an Association, Club or in similar places, whether permissible or not?

Background

The relief sought was to forbear the respondents from harassing the petitioner-Club and its members by insisting the petitioner-Club to obtain FL2 License from the State Government for permitting its members to consume liquor brought from outside (purchased from Government approved liquor shops) within the petitioner-Club premises.

Petitioner-Club was constrained to move the present petition on account of the fact that respondents were frequently harassing the petitioner-Club by conducting unnecessary inspections.

Senior Counsel for the petitioner opined that purchasing liquor from Government approved shops and bringing the liquor bottle inside the club premises and consumption of liquor by the members could not be objected by the police authorities.

What was the admitted fact?

It was an admitted fact that the members of the petitioner-Club were consuming liquor in the Club premises, and they were not causing any nuisance or disturbance to the other members or the public in general. Such activities of in-house consumption of liquor would not fall under the offence of nuisance.

Thus, the interference by the Police Authorities is highly unwarranted and therefore, the respondents should be restrained from conducting any such unnecessary inspections in the absence of any specific complaint or otherwise.

Bye-Laws of Petitioner-Club

The bye-laws of the petitioner-club revealed that the Club permitted the sports activities and maintained reading room for the benefit its members. It did not hold any valid license to sell the liquor or to consume the same inside the Club, which was a public place. Thus, the petition was liable to be rejected.

High Court’s Opinion

Bench opined that it would be beneficial to refer to the provisions envisaged in Tamil Nadu Prohibition Act, 1937 and as per that, consuming liquor in a public place where there is no licence or permission is granted and such person is in the state of intoxication, then the Authorities Competent are empowered to prosecute those persons.

Whether consumption of liquor in an Association, Club or in similar places, whether permissible or not?

Any Association, Club or otherwise cannot go beyond the scope of its bye laws and the Competent Authorities under the Societies Registration Act are also empowered to initiate action for violation of the bye-laws.

The Bench expressed that, it is not if any Club or Association can register their Organization under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act and carry on their activities in their own way or involving in unconnected activities, which are not approved under the bye-laws, which is registered under the Societies Registration Act.

Since the petitioner-club was registered under the Societies Registration Act, it was bound to confine its activities with reference to the bye-laws registered under the Registration Act. In the event of expansion of activities, then license or permission were required and even the bye-laws required amendment, which must be approved by the competent authorities under the Societies Registration Act.

High Court elaborated stating that buying, selling, consumption and possession, all are regulated under various Rules and Regulations.

“…consumption of liquor when regulated under the Rules, then the consumption must be in accordance with the provisions of the Act and Rules and it is not at the choice of the consumers of liquor.”

The Court stated that possession and consumption of liquor in a Club or Association as per the Rules may be done only by obtaining license from the Competent Authorities. In the absence of license, it is to be construed as an offence under the Prohibition Act and under the Rules in force.

Therefore, Clubs and Associations registered under the Societies Registration Act, are carrying on their activities beyond the objects set out in their respective bye-laws and there are many such complaints in the public domain. Thus, Courts are expected to exercise restraint in passing such general orders in the interest of the public.

Duty of the Executives

Scrupulous implementation of law is the duty mandated on the Executives.

The Bench expressed that, no doubt, largescale allegations against the Spa, Clubs, Associations, Recreation Clubs etc., are in the public domain and such allegations are resulting in various consequences in the Society. It creates problems in the families and also in the Society at large.

Thus, it is duty mandated on the Executives to ensure that such illegal activities are effectively controlled by initiating all appropriate actions in the manner known to law.

“…buying, selling, possession and consumption of liquor all regulated under the Rules and any violation in this Regard is an offence and the persons committing such illegalities are liable to be prosecuted under the relevant Statutes and the Rules in force.”

 High Court passed the following orders:

  • Relief stood rejected.
  • The first respondent-Director General of Police is directed to constitute trained Special Squads in each District and in Cities across the State of Tamil Nadu under the leadership of the respective Superintendents of Police and the respective Commissioners of Police for the purpose of conducting inspections in Social Clubs, Associations, Spa, Recreation Clubs, Massage Centres etc., and initiate all appropriate actions, in the event of identifying any commission of offence or illegality.
  • On initiation of any such action, against any such Organisations, Social Clubs, Associations etc., the actions initiated shall be communicated to the Competent Jurisdictional Authorities under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, along with the details of allegations and action taken, enabling those Authorities to initiate further actions under the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975 and Rules or under the relevant provisions of law if the registration of Associations and Clubs are done under different Statutes.
  • DG directed to issue all necessary instructions/guidelines to the Subordinate Police Authorities to develop an effective coordination with the Registration Department and other Government Departments concerned, so as to ensure effective and efficient implementation of the Statutes for the purpose of prosecuting the offenders dealing with the illegalities simultaneously under various relevant Statutes.
  • DG directed to issue circulars to Police officials across the State of Tamil Nadu and communicate the copy of such circulars to the Registration Department and other connected Government Departments and to local bodies for initiation of appropriate actions against the licenses granted for such establishments by the local bodies as per the terms and conditions and under the provisions of law.
  • The above-said is directed to be done within a period of 4 weeks.

Matter to be posted before this Court under the caption ‘For Reporting Compliance’ on 24-1-2022. [Kancheepuram Reading Room and Tennis Club v. Director General of Police, WP No. 30803 of 2012, decided on 23-12-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Petitioner: Mr. T.R. Rajagopalan, Senior Counsel for Mr. P. Dinesh Kumar.

For Respondents: Mr. M. Rajendiran, Additional Government Pleader.

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