In a U turn, the Goa Government today said it would not approach the Supreme Court for exclusion of liquor outlets in the coastal state from the purview of its order banning sale of liquor along state and national highways. Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar said it would not be “fair” on the part of his government to approach the top court, but the affected liquor vendors could file a review petition.
Last December, the SC had ordered ban on all liquor shops within 500 metres of national and state highways across the country, a move aimed at reducing drunken driving and road accidents that claim thousands of lives every year. It had said the licences of existing shops will not be renewed after March 31, 2017.
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“I would advice the association of liquor vendors who are affected with the order to file a review petition before the apex court,” the chief minister told reporters. He said the state government would provide all the necessary support to the liquor trade.
Interestingly, Parsekar had said on February 13 that his government would file a review petition in the top court as the liquor ban order will adversely affect the tourism industry. He had said the Goa should have been made a party while hearing a petition and that they were not taken into confidence.
According to the estimates by the state Excise department, the ban order would affect 3,000 of total 11,000 outlets in the tourist state. The change of stand by the government came at a time when Goa, which went to polls on February 4, is awaiting results, which will be out on March 11. Parsekar further said his government would attempt to save majority of the outlets from the purview of the SC order.
“The State Advocate General has told me verbally that the order does not cover bars and restaurants which serve liquor. This means out of 3,000 outlets, 1,500 will not be affected with the order. “Moreover, some city roads which were earlier highways and are now replaced with bypass roads would be denotified (as highways) due to which they will be saved from being covered under this order,” he said.
The CM said his government had compiled all data regarding the liquor outlets, which would be handed over to the next government after March 11. State Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar has also echoed Parsekar.
“The association of liquor vendors should file the petition before the SC. The state government is with them. We can file the affidavit in the SC supporting the association,” the minister said, adding the apex court need to be convinced that its order will severely affect Goa, whose mainstay is tourism.