Developed By: iNFOTYKE
HC endorses Govt, liquor trade hit hard
SHILLONG: Several liquor stores were shut down in parts of the State on Friday after the High Court of Meghalaya upheld the prescribed limits notified by the State government under the Excise Rules for setting up liquor shops.
The move, however, will affect the revenue generation of the State which is already reeling under acute financial crunch following the NGT ban on coal mining.
As many as 314 liquor stores out of a total of 600 in the whole State will be affected by the order.
While the annual revenue generated from Excise Duty ranges from Rs 150 crore to 160 crore, the order will reduce the revenue generation by 50 per cent, government officials feared.
The amended Rule 183 of the Meghalaya Excise Rules notified on September 23, 2015 by the Commissioner and Secretary, Excise, J. Lyngdoh, stipulates the closure of all liquor shops located within 200 metres from places of worship, educational institutions and hospitals.
The order which was to be implemented within six months had also restricted setting up of liquor shops within distance of 50 metres from mid-point of national/state highways within the city/town limits, and 100 metres from mid-point of national and state highways in the outskirts.
The High Court on Friday upheld the order of the State government after hearing a group of petitions.
Commissioner and Secretary, Excise, J. Lyngdoh, told reporters on Friday that the East Khasi Hills Wine Dealers Association, Ri Bhoi Wine Dealers’ Association and an individual identified as Hamsia Pariat had sought the intervention of the High Court.
Earlier, the State government examined the representation of the petitioners but decided to go ahead with the official order related to closure of liquor shops which are not following the prescribed limits.
Subsequently, during the hearing on March 31, the High Court upheld the government order.
According to the Excise Commissioner and Secretary, six months’ time was given (till March 31 this year) to the liquor store owners to re-locate the shops.
The High Court order said that the entire process of renewal of licenses which expired on March 31 will remain subject to the final orders to be passed in the writ petitions. The matter will come up for hearing again on May 2.
The order also said that in the interest of justice, in case any existing licensee’s location does not stand inconformity with the requirements of the Septembers 23, 2015 notification of the government, “but he submits a proposal for relocation, the same may be considered by the department in accordance with law and expeditiously, preferably within 15 days of making the proposal”.
The government amended the Rule 183 of the Meghalaya Excise Rules since the old rule which existed even before the formation of Meghalaya did not specify any limit to set up any liquor shop.
The old rule only said that there should be reasonable distance from the hospitals, schools and places of worship for setting up of liquor shops.
According to the Commissioner and Secretary, Excise, the zoning of areas where liquor store are located is the need of the hour and this can be done in close coordination with the Urban Affairs department.
However, as per the amended rule, the distance between one liquor store and another on the outskirts must be 5 kms whereas there is no limit prescribed in the city.
To a question on review of the government order on the restrictions to set up liquor shops near hospitals, places of worship and educational institutions, the official said that while the State government can take a call on the matter as it is a State Subject, the restrictions on setting up of liquor shops along the national highways was as per the report of the Committee on Roads Safety constituted by the Supreme Court.
The Committee is yet to submit its report, he added.