The Bombay High Court will decide whether a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the state government’s order lifting the liquor ban in Chandrapur district will be heard by the Principal seat at Mumbai or the Nagpur bench.
A division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice MS Karnik was hearing a PIL filed by Dr Abhay Bang, a social activist who has been working with tribals of Gadchiroli and spearheaded the movement for the prohibition of liquor in that district; former MLA WS Chatap and a few tribals. Prohibition was implemented in Gadchiroli in 1992 whereas was liquor ban was implemented in Chandrapur in 2015.
On Monday, the judges asked the petitioners why they approached the HC in Mumbai considering the same could be heard by the Nagpur bench.
Advocates for the petitioner, Rafiq Dada and Uday Warunjikar, said they were aggrieved by the lifting of prohibition in the tribal belt. “Tribals get addicted and the worst affected are the women and children. The decision is taken in Mumbai so we are here,” said Dada.
To this, the CJ remarked: “With Mantralay being here all decisions are bound to be taken here. But the effect comes there. So it has to desirably go to Nagpur.”
When Dada said that it should be heard by the Principal bench, CJ said that considering the June order for lifting prohibition in Chandrapur was challenged, it should go before the Nagpur bench. “Had you come before the June order then we could look into it, or if you say that you will not challenge the order and this petition is panned Maharashtra then we will look into it,” said CJ.
Clarifying that they were not “forum shopping”, Dada said this would have an impact at other places as well. He even said that although the government passed the order in June, they were able to get a copy of the same only in October.
The plea contended that the government’s reasons, as cited in the Cabinet decision, for lifting prohibition was not only false and incorrect but also irrelevant and extraneous to the decision, rendering it arbitrary, unreasonable and baseless.
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