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As the Punjab government considers options to lessen the impact of the Supreme Court order banning sale of liquor near national and state highways, the state advocate-general has advised that marriage palaces and banquet halls within 500 metres — or 220 metres in some cases — can continue to serve liquor if they have a valid licence.
In a detailed legal opinion sent to the government earlier this week, Punjab Advocate General Atul Nanda has advised that the Supreme Court judgment “would have no application to marriages palaces, banquet halls or similar places serving alcohol within 500 metres from the national and state highways, located in the state of Punjab”.
The government had sought Nanda’s opinion on whether, following the SC order, marriage palaces, banquet halls, etc, situated within a radius of 500 metres or 220 metres, as the case may be, would have to be “treated at par with liquor bars, hotels, clubs, restaurants, etc, which sell liquor to the public in retail”.
The advocate’s opinion was also sought on whether licences to serve liquor issued by the Excise Department were now illegal. The AG has underlined the fact that the SC judgment was “not intended to apply to marriage palaces holding valid licences”.
“Although in the operative portion of paragraph 24 (I) of the judgment, the Supreme Court has directed, ‘All states and union territories shall forthwith cease and desist from granting licences for the sale of liquor along national and state highways’, in my opinion, this direction would apply to a situation of sale of liquor alone and per se in a liquor vend/shop and not to consumption of liquor in a marriage palace. The direction in paragraph 24 (v) also suggests that what is prohibited is visibility of a shop for the sale of liquor,” Nanda’s opinion says. The AG’s opinion, sources in the Punjab government told The Indian Express, would give the state government room to manoeuvre and help clear confusion over liquor sale.