The Punjab and Haryana high court on Thursday issued notices to the Punjab government and the state excise and taxation commissioner, posted at Patiala, on a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking the enforcement of resolutions of those gram panchayats which have decided to close liquor vends.
The HC issued the notices on a PIL filed by the Awareness and Social Welfare Forum Sangrur, through advocate HC Arora, alleging that under Section 40 of the Panchayati Raj Act, the gram panchayats could pass resolutions in the prescribed manner before September 30 of a year, seeking closure of liquor vends in their areas of jurisdiction with effect from the first day of April of the next year.
Arora said such a resolution was binding on the state government, but the excise and taxation commissioner could reject it only on the ground that during two years preceding the date of such a resolution, any incident of illicit distillation or sale of such smuggled liquor had taken place in the area of the panchayat concerned.
The HC bench comprising justices SK Mittal and Deepak Sibal took a serious view of the Punjab government’s conduct in not taking a final decision on resolutions passed by around 60 gram panchayats for enforcing prohibition within their gram sabha areas and recommended closure of liquor vends in their areas from April 2015.
The health of citizens is of more importance than revenue loss, which should be kept into consideration by the said commissioner while passing orders on the resolutions passed by gram panchayats, the HC bench observed, seeking an action-taken report on such resolutions by January 28.
The petitioner alleged that the excise and taxation commissioner, Punjab, posted at Patiala, in the past had been delaying the passing of any order on such resolutions passed by gram panchayats, and that he would pass any order only after the auction of vends that would actually take place the following year.
“Thereafter, most of such resolutions used to be rejected by him under the pretext that closure of liquor vends would cause loss of revenue to the state government,” the petitioner had alleged.