CHANDIGARH: The Punjab Assembly braved the Supreme Court’s ban by passing a Bill on Friday that allows hotels, restaurants, marriage venues and clubs near national and State highways to serve liquor. However, it has specified that it can only be served within the premises and for consumption only.
The Bill that was tabled and passed in the State assembly states that, “The judicial pronouncement is aimed at checking drunken driving and the resultant losses. However, there are a large number of hotels, restaurants and other enclosed notified places where liquor is sold for in situ consumption. These are part of the hospitality and tourism industry which generate substantial employment in the State. Absence of liquor in hotels, restaurants, clubs etc has seriously affected them, and partial closure may create substantial unemployment.’’
It further adds that notwithstanding anything contained in any judgment, decree or order of any court, tribunal or authority, any of the above mentioned places with a licence near highways shall be entitled to serve liquor within their premises.
A senior government functionary said, “We have gone in detail of the Supreme Court order and also taken an opinion from the advocate general of Punjab before tabling this Bill in the State assembly. We are not violating any order of the apex court.’’
“The court in its initial order stated that no liquor can be sold within 500 meters of highways or be carried from liquor vends. Here we are serving liquor within the premises so that the person cannot carry the bottle out. A person here will buy and drink it here while in a marriage venue he will be served liquor,’’ he added.
However, restrictions on opening liquor vends within 500 metres of highways will remain as per the Apex court’s directions issued in December, 2016.
Thus around 1,200 liquor vends in the State will continue to remain closed.
The official said that the government has also decided to increase checking near all these places, and action will be taken against violators.
The Punjab cabinet on Monday approved amendment to Section 26-A of the Punjab Excise Act, 1914, allowing all these institutions to serve liquor within 500 meters of highways. However, restrictions will remain the same as per the Supreme Court order for all other retail vends.