The Haryana government is seeking legal opinion from the office of the advocate general (AG) on the Supreme Court order banning the sale of liquor within 500 metres of national and state highways, as it is likely to hit the liquor trade across the state.
Haryana finance minister Captain (retd) Abhimanyu Singh, who is also in charge of the excise department, confirmed that his government has sought more clarity from the AG on how to go about implementing the Supreme Court order.
More than 650 liquor vends across Haryana, including 89 in Gurgaon, and 143 restaurants are likely to be affected by the apex court directive.
“We are bound to follow the Supreme Court order. However, we are seeking a legal interpretation of the order to know its exact implications. We have also sought a clarification on how to measure the distance from the road or air. The government is examining the judgment and the questions that are on the minds of liquor traders in the wake of the Supreme Court order could only be answered when we have the necessary clarification on the same,” Singh said.
Singh further said that if the need for relocation of existing liquor vends arises, the government will ensure that traders don’t suffer losses. “As a responsible government, we cannot challenge or contest the Supreme Court order. However, private liquor vend owners or stakeholders could seek relief,” the minister said.
Meanwhile, the representatives of the liquor industry are not satisfied with the assurance of the government and the excise department.
Owners of pubs and bars in Gurgaon’s Cyber Hub, Sector 29 and Sohna Road have decided to move the Supreme Court, seeking a clarification on its order.
“We will approach the Supreme Court for relief as hundreds of people in Gurgaon have invested crores in setting up bars and restaurants. They will be badly hit. Mere relocation will not suffice. This decision could hurt our revenues and the those who have taken loans to set up these establishments will suffer the most,” RN Rathi, director of newly launched Ninkasi brewery at Sector 30, said.
“In Gurgaon, the national highway, known as Gurgaon-Jaipur Expressway, cuts across Gurgaon and the pubs form a prominent part of the commercial hub that came up here considering its proximity to roads that help them draw plenty of customers from Gurgaon and Delhi. We feel that the ruling should be implemented considering the nature of the location and the roads leading up to them, as they also connect top business houses that pumped in huge amounts of money into these pubs and the local hospitality industry and provided jobs to many people. Hence, their interest should be taken into account,” Mrityunjai Tiwary, consultant, Bluefish Hospitality, said.
“The 500 metre rule should only apply to liquor shops along the highway and not malls or hotels, as they largely cater to local residents and not people travelling inter-state,” Naresh Madan, director, Imperfecto, DLF Cyber Hub, said.
Gurgaon’s excise department has identified 89 liquor vends and 143 pubs in the red zone. The administration will take a call on whether to shut only liquor vends or cancel the licence of pubs and bars located within 500 metres of the highways.
A survey has shown that of the 89 liquor vends falling in the red zone, 43 cannot be relocated due to space issues, the excise department said.
The excise department has also sought clarification from the AG on the apex court order.