Kallukurichi tragedy: Madras HC takes up suo motu case on illicit liquor business

The court felt that these were exceptional circumstances where it had to step in to protect the larger interest of the public and protect the rights of the vulnerable sections of society.
Madras High Court
Madras High Court
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In light of the Kallakurichi tragedy, the Madras High Court, on Monday, July 1, took suo motu cognisance of the economic underdevelopment of people in the Kalvarayan hills region. The area is popular for brewing illicit liquor, and the main accused in the Kallukurichi tragedy, Kannukutty, was found to be procuring illicit liquor from the area. A division bench of Justices SM Subramaniam and C Kumarappan issued a notice to the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu, Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department, Director General of Police, the District Collectors and Superintendents of Police of Kallakurichi and Salem districts.

The court observed that the socio-economic status of the people should not lead to such exploitation and added that it had to be dealt with at the earliest. The bench also said that all comprehensive measures for the economic and social upliftment of the people in this region was a constitutional priority.

Stating that the the history and the present condition of the Kalvarayan hills region deserved immediate attention, the court directed the government to take all steps to bolster the economic situation to prevent further crimes.

The bench also pointed out that though the Court did not normally step in of its own accord, there were exceptional circumstances when the Court felt that it had to act to protect the larger interest of the public and to protect the rights of the vulnerable sections of society. “The people inhabiting the Kalvarayan hills are from economically and socially backward sections of the Society, and their fundamental right to life under Article 21 needs to be exercised to the fullest,” the bench said.

On June 18, several individuals from Karunapuram village in Kallakurichi began showing extreme symptoms of illnesses, including chest pain, blurred vision and nausea. All of them were found to be suffering from methanol poisoning from the illicit arrack they consumed. As many as 34 people died overnight, and the current death toll stands at 63. The three main accused Kannukutty alias Govindaraj, his wife Vijaya and his brother Dhamodharan were all arrested on June 23 and remanded in judicial custody. The methanol supplier, a man identified as Sivakumar from Chennai, was also arrested on the same day by the CB-CID.

Kalvarayan Malai, located 55 kilometres from Kallakurichi, has been traditionally known as a hotbed for brewing illicit liquor called ‘Nattu sarakku’ in local parlance. TNM’s ground report revealed that illicit liquor from Kalvarayan Malai was supplied to Kallakurichi, Villupuram and Salem districts. Kannukutty, the prime accused in the case, used to buy the brew from the Kalvarayan Hills and dilute it with water before selling it in plastic pouches.

Madras High Court
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