Kallakurichi hooch tragedy toll at 48; Madras HC slams state as Tamil actors insist on prohibition

A PIL sought directions to state government to transfer investigation into the offence, sale of illicit arrack in Kallakurichi to CBI.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jun 21, 2024 | 11:50 PM Updated Jun 22, 2024 | 11:13 AM

Over 38 dead in Kallakurichi hooch tragedy, Opposition seek CBI probe

Even as the toll from the hooch tragedy in Tamil Nadu’s Kallakurichi has risen to 48, the Madras High Court, on Friday, 21 June slammed the state government and directed it to file a detailed report on the steps taken to curb the sale of illicit arrack in the state.

Actor Suriya, actor-cum politicians Kamal Hassan and Vijay expressed their condolences and shared their thoughts about the tragedy.

After visiting the victims’ families in Kallakurichi, Vijay said took to ‘X’ to post that a repeat of such an incident shows the government’s indifference. He was referring to the last year’s Villupuram hooch tragedy which killed over 20 people. The fact that such an incident has occurred again shows the indifference of the government administration when it has not yet fully recovered from the tragedy of losing many lives due to the same incident last year.

He also requested that “the Tamil Nadu government take strict precautionary measures to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.”

Additionally, Tamilaga Vettri Kazhagam (actor’s party) general secretary said in a statement that Vijay has asked the cadre to avoid celebrating his birthday, which falls on 22 June.

Actor Suriya suggested that the DMK-government work on enacting a prohibition policy. Taking to ‘X’ to share his opinion, the actor said that short-term solutions will not come in handy in long-term. He also referred to the last year’s deaths due to illicit liqour in the nearby Villupuram district and questioned why the government would let such an event repeat. He also took a jibe at the Tamil Nadu government for operating TASMAC and said that “some ruling parties encourage alcoholism” and asked that they stop this “violence” immediately.

Actor-turned politician Kamal Hassan also expressed similar opinion. He urged the Stalin government to “crack down on the bootleg liquor dealers with an iron fist so that such a tragedy does not happen again.” He also insisted that rehabiliation centres be set up help addicts in recovery.

Related: Tamil Nadu hooch tragedy: Opposition wants CBI probe, seeks CM Stalin’s resignation

Why Madras HC slammed state government

A division bench comprising Justices D Krishnakumar and K Kumaresh Babu, on Friday, 21 June asked the state to file a detailed report on the steps taken to curb the sale of illicit arrack. The bench posted further hearing on the PIL filed by AIADMK to 26 June and said that the state cannot take the issue lightly as it affects people’s lives.

The PIL sought a direction to the state government to transfer to CBI, the investigation into the crime/offence, sale of illicit arrack by accused persons in Kallakurichi district.

Apart from details of action taken in the Kallakurichi hooch tragedy, the bench also asked for action taken in a similar incident in Villupuram in 2023. When the case came up for hearing, the bench orally observed this case was about the lives of the people and therefore the court wants to know as to what action was taken by the police to curb sale of illicit arrack and how many cases were filed in the state in the last year.

The bench also said it had read a news report regarding illicit arrack being sold in Kallakurichi even before this tragedy.

Related: High drama in Tamil Nadu Assembly as AIADMK members are evicted for the day, ruling withdrawn later

One-man commission begins inquiry

Justice B Gokuldas, who heads the one-man commission to look into the hooch tragedy, commenced his inquiry into the incident on 21 June after paying a visit to victims’ families.

The retired judge of the Madras High Court visited the Kallakurichi Government Medical College Hospital. When asked to comment, he told reporters, “There is no scope to comment anything now,” and added that the report will be submitted to the government.

“Three months time has been given,” he said on submission of report.

The dead included 3 women and a transgender. Of the deceased, 25 died at the Kallakurichi government hospital, 3 at JIPMER in Puducherry, 16 at Salem Government Medical College Hospital, and 4 at Villupuram government medical college hospital, Health Minister told reporters in Puducherry after visiting those undergoing treatment at various government medical facilities.

AIADMK chief and state Leader of Opposition, Edappadi K Palaniswami had earlier in the day claimed 50 people had died after consuming illicit arrack in Kallakurichi.

Minister Ma. Subramanian said that 168 persons including nine women and a trans-person were admitted to various hospitals. A medical team under the Deputy Director of Health has been constituted to take up a door survey to ascertain the exact number of persons affected due to the illicit arrack consumption, the Minister told reporters in Puducherry.

Earlier, Subramanian interacted with the senior health officials on the treatment being provided to the affected.

The National Human Rights Commission had also issued a notice in this regard to the Tamil Nadu government in May. It had called for a detailed report on steps taken to curb the sale of spurious liquor. This was not the first time the state machinery had failed in preventing deaths due to spurious liquor, the bench added.

(Edited by Neena)

(South First is now on WhatsApp and Telegram)