Highway liquor ban: High court puts Punjab govt on notice for law exempting hotels, pubs
The state’s response has been sought by July 24.Updated: Jun 29, 2017 09:25 IST
The Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday put Punjab government on notice, asking why its recent law, exempting hotels and bars from the liquor sale ban near highways, not be stayed until a final decision. The state’s response has been sought by July 24.
The order was passed by the HC vacation bench of justices Anita Chaudhary and HS Madaan on a petition by ArriveSafe Society, an NGO, which is a petitioner in the Supreme Court too on the issue. The SC had on December 15 last year called for closure of liquor shops within 500 metres of state and national highways. The order came into effect from April 1.
The NGO has challenged the Punjab Excise (Amendment) Act, 2017, that tweaked the 1914 law, on June 22. “This was done with the sole motive to dilute the SC order and facilitate sale of liquor along highways. The state’s version, that amendment was done to clear ‘ambiguity’, is a political response with an ulterior motive to dismantle the foundation of the (SC) verdict,” said Harman Singh Sidhu, president of the NGO, after the hearing.
The court was told that the state should have focused on the safety and health of citizens, instead of working for “benefits of the liquor lobby”.
Punjab did not file a review application in the SC against the ban — while 68 review applications were filed — instead, it opted to enact a law, the court was told.
What’s the tweak?
The amendment introduced two clauses — 18A and 19A – to differentiate between “sale” and “supply” of liquor. While the first clause defines sale of liquor as “transfer of consideration by a liquor vend for consumption by a purchaser at a place other than its premises”, clause 19A defines supply of liquor as “provision of liquor for consideration at clubs, restaurants, hotels and other places on the basis of licences issued on the condition that it shall be consumed within their premises”.
In other words, catering establishments will be allowed to provide liquor to customers as long as it is consumed on their premises.
The legislation then goes on to add that licensed hotels, clubs and restaurants will be entitled to continue supplying liquor even if they are located on state and national highways, notwithstanding any judgment or decree passed by a court or tribunal in that regard.