The state government is not expected to encourage unregulated sale and consumption of liquor, the Bombay high court (HC) said, while upholding an order striking down the licence granted by the then excise minister for a liquor bar at a residential area in Nagpur.
Three women residing in Vidarbha Housing Colony at Nagpur — Shaila Badwaik, Sunita Mhaske and Swati Mahajan — had challenged the grant of licence to Hotel Shobha, functioning from their colony. They had argued that by granting the licence for a liquor bar in a residential locality, the excise minister had infringed on their fundamental right to live peacefully and with dignity. Justice AB Chaudhari had, on June 27, struck down the foreign liquor licence for a bar and restaurant (FL-III) granted to the hotel. The minister had granted FL-III licence for the hotel on October 30, 2010, after both the collector and the divisional commissioner rejected the hotel owner’s plea on grounds of steep opposition from locals. Atul Jaiswal, the owner of the hotel, moved the high court challenging the order.
Pulling up the minister for ignoring the opposition from locals, the division bench of justice SC Dharmadhikari and justice MT Joshi said, “A holder of public office is expected to uphold public trust. He should have been more careful and responsible.”
Upholding the closure of the liquor bar, the judges said, “Public nuisance, inconvenience to residents, embarrassment to women and school and college going children is a relevant consideration while processing an application for FL-III liquor licence.”
“There is no unrestricted and absolute right to sell liquor and intoxicants. If public health, public nuisance and public interest are not germane considerations and are relevant factors, then we fail to understand what can be the guiding tests for the authorities in considering the application [for a liquor licence],” the bench said.