The Punjab Assembly on Friday passed a bill to allow serving liquor in hotels, restaurants and clubs on the highway. The Punjab Excise (Amendment) Bill, which was moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Brahm Mohindra, was passed by the Assembly on the concluding day of its budget session. Earlier this week, the Punjab Cabinet had given its nod to amend a section of the Punjab Excise Act, 1914, that would exempt hotels, restaurants and clubs from the Supreme Court order restricting sale of liquor within 500 metres of highways.
As per the amendment, all ambiguities would be removed and while there will be no retail vend within 500 metres of the national and state highways, these restrictions shall not apply to hotels, restaurants and clubs situated on the national and state highways.
In December last year, the Supreme Court had ordered that liquor vends located within 500 metres on national and state highways, should be closed down. Later, it had modified the order reducing the distance to 220 metres in areas having a population of up to 20,000. However, the apex court had made it clear that its December 15, 2016 order banning such vends within 500 metres of highways shall remain operative for other areas.
“The judicial pronouncement is aimed at checking drunken driving and the resultant losses. However, there are large number of hotels, restaurants, clubs and other enclosed notified places where liquor is sold for in situ consumption,” the Bill states. “These are a part of the hospitality and tourism industry which generates substantial employment in the state. Absence of liquor in hotels, restaurants, clubs etc has seriously affected their existence and even their partial closure may create substantial unemployment in the state,” it said.
The bill aims to ensure that hotels, restaurants, clubs and other notified places are allowed to serve alcohol only for consumption within their premises “to secure the livelihood” of a large segment of the state’s population. However, sale of liquor shall be permitted only through licensed vends which shall not be located within 500 metres from the outer range of the national or state highway or a service lane of those roads. Also, liquor vends shall neither be directly visible nor accessible from highways.
The bill mentions that notwithstanding anything contained in any judgement, decree or order of any court, tribunal or authority, every club, hotel, restaurant or any notified place having a licence shall be entitled to serve liquor within the premises located near national or state highways. The SAD-BJP alliance and AAP members were not present in the Assembly when this Bill and other legislative businesses were taken up as they had staged a walkout during the Question hour.
with PTI inputs