THE CENTRE will seek legal advice to explore a “middle path” to solve problems being faced by hoteliers and restaurant owners following the Supreme Court’s order banning sale of liquor within 500 metres of highways. Following a meeting with a delegation of hoteliers and restaurant owners here on Monday, Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma said, “We respect the Supreme Court order. We heard about the problems the tourism industry can face due to this directive, and (we) will take suggestions from legal experts to see if there is a middle path.”
Sharma said the Centre will hold discussions on the matter and see how a solution can be found so that the tourism industry doesn’t take a hit while the SC directive is also followed. Sources said the Centre is likely to consult the Attorney-General for a fresh legal opinion on the matter.
Speaking with reporters after meeting the team of hoteliers in the afternoon, Sharma also said the matter is a state subject, and any decision on this can only be taken by the state governments concerned. “We will refer to the states the problems being faced by the hotel and restaurant owners due to the ban. It is for them (state governments) to take necessary action,” he said.
Sharma said that everything will be done within the framework of the apex court’s directives. He also said that drunk driving is “a social evil and national sin”, and everyone must come together to fight it.
Manbeer Chaudhary, president of Hotel and Restaurant Association of Haryana (HRAH), which had met the Tourism Minister and sought his intervention, said the liquor and hospitality industries are different entities — he maintained that hotels do not sell bottles but only serve loose liquor.
The association also met Haryana Finance Minister Capt Abhimanyu and submitted a representation, asking the government to take a stand in Supreme Court that excise is a state matter and that states should have been consulted before passing the judgment.
Chaudhary said the association will also meet Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari to discuss the issue. Of 478 bars in Haryana, 194 have faced closure due to the ban. Of these, 106 are in Gurgaon.
Thousands of establishments along national and state highways, including five-star hotels, have been stopped from serving alcohol since the SC order came into effect.