Acting on a petition challenging the recent amendment to the excise Act in Punjab to allow the sale of liquor at hotels, clubs and restaurants located within 500 metres of the state and national highways, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the state government. The petition, filed by activist Harman Singh Sidhu, the man whose campaign led to the Supreme Court judgment banning
The petition, filed by activist Harman Singh Sidhu, the man whose campaign led to the Supreme Court judgment banning sale of liquor within 500 metres of highways across the country, has sought quashing of the Punjab Excise (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which it said was in violation of the apex court judgment. “The impugned amendment is nothing short of a political response with an ulterior motive to dismantle the foundation of the verdict given by the Honourable Supreme Court,” Sidhu has said in the petition. “When the highest tribunal in our land has declared what ought to be done to prevent the mishappenings on the roads, now the State has risen and tried to change the rules of the game.”
Punjab Assembly last week had passed an amendment in the Punjab Excise Act, 1914, by inserting clauses to differentiate notified places like hotels, restaurants and clubs from liquor vends to ensure the former establishments are allowed to supply the liquor for consumption within their premises, despite being within 500 metres of Highways.
However, the amendment continued the restriction on vends within the distance. Arguing that the amendment has also allowed the operation of liquor vends which camouflage as restaurants or hotels or clubs, Sidhu said in his petition that the government had shown “a narrow pedantic approach just for the sake of revenue” by amending the law. The case will come up for hearing on July 24.
The Punjab government while moving the bill in the assembly had said the hotels, restaurants, clubs and other enclosed notified places are a part of the hospitality and tourism industry which “generates substantial employment” in the State. “The absence of supply of liquor in hotels, restaurants, clubs etc. has seriously affected their existence and even their partial closure may create substantial unemployment in the State,” the Bill read.