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Party on for bars, hotels along highways as Punjab amends Excise Act for relief

Statesman News Service | Chandigarh |

The Punjab Assembly on Friday approved a special amendment in the Punjab Excise Act, 1914, exempting bars, hotels and marriage palaces from Supreme Court's December order banning liquor sale within 500 metres from national and state highways.

As per the amendment in Section 26-A of Punjab Excise Act, 1914, no liquor retail vend would be opened within 500 metres of the national and state highways but there will no restrictions on hotels, restaurants and clubs for serving liquor within the same distance.

In December last year, the Supreme Court passed a ruling forbidding sale of liquor within 500 metres of highways, provoking outcry from several states.

The Bill aims to ensure that hotels, restaurants, clubs and other notified places are allowed to serve alcohol only for consumption within their premises “to secure the livelihood” of a large segment of the state’s population. However, sale of liquor shall be permitted only through licensed vends which shall not be located within 500 metres from the outer range of the national or state highway or a service lane of those roads. Also, liquor vends shall neither be directly visible nor accessible from highways.

The Bill mentions that notwithstanding anything contained in any judgment, decree or order of any court, tribunal or authority, every club, hotel, restaurant or any notified place having a licence shall be entitled to serve liquor within the premises located near national or state highways.

Justifying the amendment, the Parliamentary Affairs minister Brahm Mohindra said liquor vends have been shifted following the Apex court order but hotels, restaurants and marriage palaces have been set up on highways with huge investments and can't be shifted to other places like the liquor vends.

"We are against drunken driving. But this ban is resulting in loss of employment besides the revenue to the state. Therefore, a balance is required between loss of employment and drunken driving," he said adding that the state government will run a drive against drunken driving on highways.

Punjab denotified 12 stretches of state highways in April this year in an attempt to provide relief to hotels and establishments.
In the absence of Opposition members who staged a walkout in protest against the forceful eviction of Aam Aadmi Party legislators on Thursday, the Assembly also passed other amendments, such as one to The Punjab Cooperative Societies Act, 1961, which previously empowered officials to auction of a farmer under debt.

The Assembly also passed a legislation for giving fifty per cent reservation to women in urban local bodies.