Punjab will wait for Governor’s assent on Punjab Excise (Amendment) Bill, 2017, to restart sale of liquor in hotels, clubs and restaurants, located within 500 metres of state and national highways even after Supreme Court’s observations Tuesday that highway bars and pubs falling within city limits are exempt from its December 2016 prohibitory order.
The Assembly had passed the Bill during its budget session on June 23, but it has not reached Governor VP Singh Badnore yet. Sources said the file will take some time before it reaches Badnore as it would go to the Legal. Remembrance (LR), then to the Excise department and the CMO before being sent to the governor.
A state official said SC’s observation was a relief for the hotels, restaurants and clubs but it was not an order. “The observation was reported by the press. We cannot take that as an order unless we get it in a copy of the order. We will wait for our Bill only to become a law before we allow them to start serving liquor.”
Sources said that the Bill, after its passage in the Assembly, had been sent to Speaker Rana Kanwarpal Singh. Rana Singh told the Indian Express that he had just signed the Bill and his office had sent it to LR. The Excise department officials said they were yet to receive it from LR.
A state official said Punjab had shown the way to other states. “Himachal Pradesh and Kerala have followed suit. The hotel industry was affected badly everywhere. We have provide all of them a ray of hope.” In the amendment, Punjab had changed the definition of these places as outlets serving liquor and a liquor vend as an outlet selling liquor.
In Punjab alone, about 3,500 outlets on highways serving liquor were hit. The industry had laid off 50-60 per cent staff as the footfall at these places was affected and business was hit.
The amendment in Punjab Excise Act, 1914, had stated, “There are a large number of hotels, restaurants, clubs and other enclosed notified places where liquor is sold for in-situ consumption. These are a part of the hospitality industry and generate hundreds and thousands of jobs. The absence of liquor supply has affected the existence of these outlets. It is possible to shift liquor vends, but not hotels and clubs. Their closure can also impact state’s future excise revenue besides creating substantial unemployment in state.”
Funds crunched Punjab is looking at excise duty as a major contributor to fill empty coffers besides the GST compensation. Earlier, Punjab had denotified several roads, earlier notified as state highways, and redefined those as city roads.