Thiruvananthapuram: Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, disagreeing with the Kerala High Court observation that there was need for a total ban on the sale of toddy - local liquor made from the extract of coconut or palm trees - said he meant no disrespect to the judiciary.
"The judiciary is the backbone of democracy and we always have the highest regard for it, but at times we will have to disagree with its observations like in the case of the ban of toddy, as proposed by the court," Chandy said while speaking to reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting.
"Banning toddy is not feasible, because thousands of people are employed in the industry. The problem with toddy is that the availability of fresh toddy is much less than than the requirement. So, spurious stuff makes its way to toddy shops, and that is what we need to take measures against," the chief minister said.
The Kerala High Court recently asked the state government to see if it can take steps to ban toddy, in the wake of instances of spurious stuff being sold as toddy.
Barring the Indian Union Muslim League party, the second-biggest ally of the Chandy government, not a single political party in the state has agreed with the court`s observation.
Toddy is tapped by professional tappers and sold to toddy shops, which supply it to the state`s numerous tipplers.
A 750 ml bottle of toddy costs around Rs 45.
The state has 5,200 shops selling toddy. In the current fiscal, 4,100 shops have been opened after the tendering process was completed.
Chandy said his government had decided that henceforth, there would be no increase in the total number of liquor retail outlets.
"If a new one has to open, we will see that we close down an existing one," the chief minister said.
The state has 708 hotels licenced to serve the drink, and 383 state-owned retail outlets also sell toddy.