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Thursday, October 28, 2021

On plea against liquor licence to restaurant near school, HC says ‘create students with moral values’

The court noted that the petitioners' institution should not have formed an opinion that education imparted by the school was "so fragile that the students would get easily influenced by a restaurant serving liquor in vicinity".

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
October 14, 2021 8:19:23 am
The petitioners, who run a school in Pune district, challenged an order passed by the state excise department granting a liquor license to a restaurant nearby. (File photo)

Bombay High Court judge Justice Girish S Kulkarni on Wednesday said “it would be imperative for educational institutions to create students with strong moral values so as to prepare them to face tougher journeys and challenges in life,” while dismissing a plea by petitioners running a school in Pune district, who challenged a liquor license issued to a restaurant in the vicinity.

The court noted that the petitioners’ institution should not have formed an opinion that education imparted by the school was “so fragile that the students would get easily influenced by a restaurant serving liquor in vicinity”.

A single-judge bench of Justice Kulkarni passed the judgment on a writ petition filed by Devram Mundhe and two other social workers who run schools and residential hostels for tribal students. They argued, through advocate P N Joshi, against the order passed by the state excise department on June 22, this year, granting a liquor license to Hotel Moonlight, a restaurant near the school.

The owner of Hotel Moonlight, situated in Barav village of Junnar Taluka in Pune district, had applied to transfer his FL-III to another premises situated in an urban area within the limits of the municipal council.

However, the Pune district collector, on November 19, 2019 rejected the prayer for transfer of license, based on the objections raised by the petitioners, an MP from Shirur Lok Sabha constituency, a local MLA and an Adivasi Shikshan Sanstha in Junnar on the ground that there is a likelihood of a law and order situation.

However, the HC noted that the collector’s comments on enquiry officer’s March 2019 report had considered the distance between the main gate of the educational institution and the restaurant as 450 metres.

The said report observed that for 10-12 years, there was another restaurant called Hotel Anand, holding a similar liquor license and situated 375 metres from the main entrance of the institute, and the school had not objected to the same.

The court noted that as per the provisions of the Bombay Foreign Liquor Rules, a distance of 75 metres was required to be maintained from an educational or religious institution.

On March 30 this year, the State Excise Commissioner allowed an appeal by the restaurant owner against the collector’s order, observing that there was no material from the police department pertaining to the law and order situation, and that the petitioner’s restaurant was beyond the statutory distance of 75 metres.

Thereafter, on June 22, the Principal Secretary, State Excise Department upheld the Excise Commissioner’s order, prompting the petitioners to approach the HC.

Justice Kulkarni, in his judgment, noted that the Pune district collector appeared to have rejected the plea by the restaurant owner “on apparent political pressure brought on him.”

The HC observed, “… if the quality of learning and inculcation of moral values in the children is to be of a standard, as what the ‘Father of the Nation’ intended to imbibe in our citizens, then the petitioner’s institution ought not to have worried at all, about any student being adversely affected, by any such place in the vicinity of the school.”

The judge said, “… an educational institute certainly contributes in creating ideal citizens. Human virtues and morals can never remain the same. It is thus more important that an endeavour of an educational institution should be to impart such education, so that the basic human values and good virtues are inculcated in the students, to make them ideal citizens.”

Rejecting the plea, Justice Kulkarni added, “It is an onerous obligation for an educational institution to devote itself in building a robust society by imparting creative education at the school level which ought not to be overlooked. It is thus a sincere hope that these words fall on the receptive ears of the institution, and the institution creates a situation for itself, that it would feel proud of its students.”

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