Liquor ban in Punjab: The Punjab and Haryana High Court issued a notice to the state government acting on a petition challenging the recent amendment to the excise Act in Punjab that allows the sale of liquor at hotels, clubs and restaurants located within 500 metres of the state and national highways, as reported by Indian Express. Activist Harman Singh Sidhu, who led a campaign to the Supreme Court judgment banning sale of liquor within 500 metres of highways across the country, filed the petition and sought quashing of the Punjab Excise (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which it said was in violation of the apex court judgment. In the petition Sidhu said, “When the highest tribunal in our land has declared what ought to be done to prevent the mishappenings on the roads, now the State has risen and tried to change the rules of the game.”
In an amendment passed by the Punjab Assembly last week in the Punjab Excise Act, 1914, it inserted the clauses to differentiate notified places like hotels, restaurants and clubs from liquor vends to ensure the former establishments are allowed to supply the liquor for consumption within their premises, despite being within 500 metres of Highways. However, the amendment continued the restriction on vends within the distance.
While Sidhu argued that the amendment has also allowed the operation of liquor vends which camouflage as restaurants or hotels or clubs. In his petition he said that the government had shown a narrow pedantic approach just for the sake of revenue by amending the law. The case will come up for hearing on July 24.
The Punjab government while moving the bill in the assembly had said the hotels, restaurants, clubs and other enclosed notified places are a part of the hospitality and tourism industry which “generates substantial employment” in the State. “The absence of supply of liquor in hotels, restaurants, clubs etc. has seriously affected their existence and even their partial closure may create substantial unemployment in the State,” the Bill read.