Successive Govts Cancel Projects Started by Previous Regimes, but Not Liquor Policy: Madras HC

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The Madras High Court on Saturday stated that there have been instances of successive governments abandoning welfare projects initiated by the previous regime, but the prohibition policy remained untouched for several decades. In certain areas, all successive governments for several decades in Tamil Nadu had consistently taken some policy decisions which supported the ones of the previous government irrespective of the political dispensation, Justice R Suresh Kumar observed.

Though some such decisions were detrimental to the welfare of the people and interest of the society at large, the successive governments had not given up such a policy, because they had an eye on the revenue for the state exchequer, the judge pointed out. Justice Kumar made the observation while dismissing two writ petitions from one G Sendrayan seeking to quash the 2021 Government Orders (GOs) of the ruling DMK reversing the previous AIADMK dispensation’s decision to establish a State Level Training Institute at Yercaud and consequently direct it to continue with the construction work at the same place.

“Illustratively, this Court can point out that, in respect of prohibition policy, for the past about five decades, very many successive governments have been continuously and steadily following the same prohibition policy, under which the State either through licensees or through state agency like TASMAC made available liquor to the people to their most convenient manner and place,” the judge said. Justice Kumar further said, “…such a prohibition policy decision is certainly injurious and detrimental to the people at large in this state and also against the growth of the state. The only reason these successive governments have given to the people to continue to follow the same prohibition policy is that it is a large revenue source for the government.” On the contrary, the judge also referred to the construction of a new Assembly and Secretariat building at Omandurar Government Estate in Chennai at a cost of over Rs 1,100 crore in 2011 by the then DMK government. The successive AIADMK government scrapped the proposal and established a multi-speciality hospital in the building instead. And it was upheld by a division bench of this court, Justice Kumar pointed out.

Even these kinds of policy decisions, though detrimental to the interest of the people, cannot be questioned through a judicial review, the judge said. “Therefore, the challenge made in the present writ petitions which questioned the order of the Registrar of Co-operative Societies dated July 28, 2021 and a GO dated November 9, 2021 are not better placed for any plausible reason in the eye of law to interfere with the said decisions taken through a policy of the government, by way of judicial review,” the judge observed.

Though a legal malafide or political malafide has been alleged on behalf of the petitioner, those reasons either are not available in this case or cannot be taken as a ground to interfere with the policy decision taken by the government, as the requirement of the state is to be best decided only by the democratically elected government, the judge mentioned. Whether the state is requiring a State Level Institute or National Level Institute and such kind of Institute is to be located at `A’ or `B’ or `C’ place is best to be decided only by the democratically elected government and not by this court, he added.

Therefore, this court does not want to interfere with the decision taken by the present government, which is reflected in the impugned communication as well as the GO, the judge added and dismissed the petitions. Before parting with the case, Justice Kumar gave certain suggestions to the government, to follow or to take into account while reviewing the decision taken by the previous dispensations.

In this regard, even an alternative proposal for the best utility of the fund already spent may not be a full and expected usage, for which the project was originally conceived and implemented. Merely because the earlier government was from a different political dispensation and the present one is of a different political dispensation, all decisions taken by the earlier government need not be reviewed.

However, certain decisions taken by the earlier government, if it is not good for the welfare of the people at large or the society, those decisions can be reviewed and alternative administrative solutions can be given, the judge said.

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