THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Tipplers’ havens near schools, colleges and places of worship in the capital city have landed the Excise Department in trouble. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has pulled up the Department for granting licences to bar hotels near educational and religious institutions. The CAG’s Performance Audit of the State Excise Department for the year that ended on March 31, 2011, even carries photographs showing bars situated next to schools, colleges and churches in various parts of Thiruvananthapuram.
‘’Our test check of records has shown that even in the capital city, along the road where the Government Secretariat is situated, licences were granted to bar hotels located opposite reputed educational institutions. Bar licence to a four-star hotel sharing the compound walls of a government college and a church was granted even when distance restriction for private four-star hotels was withdrawn during 1994-96. All these licences were being renewed every year,’’ the CAG report noted.
The report goes on to say that the condition that bars should not be sanctioned in the vicinity of educational and religious institutions remained only on paper and the rules were not being enforced.
The government should consider amending the rules, like prescribing aerial distance, to ensure that the distance restriction is applied in practice, the CAG has said.
The Foreign Liquor Rules, 1953, and the
Kerala Abkari Shops Disposal Rules, 2002, prohibit sanctioning of bar hotels in the vicinity of educational institutions, temples, churches, mosques and SC/ST colonies. A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court
also had explained the need to keep the student community away from bar hotels.
As per rules, the distance has to be determined as the shortest pathway/lane/ street road generally used by the public and the same shall be measured from gate to gate. But in 1993, the High Court held that the distance had to be measured by taking the distance that a law-abiding pedestrian would walk through, using zebra crossing.
‘’Hence, after this judgment, bar licences were being issued by the Department even in cases where the prohibited structures are just across the road,’’ the CAG noted.
‘’The government has not so far amended the Rules to make the distance restriction more specific so as to keep away the student community from the vicinity of bar hotels,’’ the report said.