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Liquor ban: Punjab’s big fat marriages hit hard after SC order

Pankaj Dhiman | Chandigarh |

Punjab's big fat marriages will no longer be a 'spirited' affair following the Supreme Court's decision to ban liquor within the 500 meters of national or state highways.

Owners of marriage palaces in Punjab said that the verdict is going to affect the ongoing marriage season as liquor is an important part of Punjabi marriages and majority of the total 3,400 marriage palaces and resorts in the state are situated on highways. Already Punjabi families are skipping to book the marriage palaces to organise their functions.

According to the marriage palace owners, they are struggling to sustain the current bookings and expecting a further decline over it. They said that the marriage season in the state is likely to be affected as the families are not getting license from Punjab excise and taxation department for liquor serving during the ceremonies. The majority of the marriage palaces in Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Amritsar are in a lurch over the confusion.

"Marriage palaces should not fall under this ambit. The verdict is for the sale and purchase of the liquor on the road heads. In marriages, there is no such a business, neither organiser is selling the liquor nor guest purchasing it. The decision in not in our favour," president of Punjab Marriage Palace Owners' Association, Sukhdev Singh Sidhu, told The Statesman.

Meanwhile, Amardeep Singh, president of Ludhiana marriage palace welfare association said that the current confusion prevailing over liquor ban will have adverse effects over the business. He said that the Ludhiana, particularly, known as a main business hub of Punjab and a major attraction for big fat marriages. "Presently we are facing a big challenge to cope up with the bookings done for the next few days. The families are re-scheduling their parties that were planned during marriage functions. We are not getting the new bookings as well as a result of the liquor ban," he said.

Financial Commissioner (Taxation), Punjab, Anurag Agarwal also said, "We have sought a legal opinion over the prevailing confusion. We will peruse the matter accordingly". The SC's verdict has come as a jolt for the marriage palaces at a time when many of them have already facing the ire of state owned Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) for irregularities. The Statesman in its latest report, last week, had mentioned that the PUDA had identified 170 marriage palaces in Patiala, Fatehgarh Sahib, Sangrur and Barnala districts that were running illegally. Similarly, in Mohali district 36 such marriage palaces will be sealed.