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Punjab’s excise Dept cautious over serving liquor at marriage palaces

Pankaj Dhiman | Chandigarh |

Despite having Advocate General's (AG) opinion, Punjab's excise and taxation department is working cautiously before issuing permits to marriage palace owners for serving liquor.

This move may further diminish the joy of marriage palace owners throughout the state as they were expecting a nod from the department on Thursday.

The department officials said that they cannot even issue a single permit for serving liquor in marriage palaces till they can assure to meet the criteria laid under Supreme Court's (SC( verdict.

"Yes, we have received a legal opinion from Punjab's AG office stating that the marriage palaces are not covered under SC's judgment based on the reason that they are not selling liquor. However, the verdict was directly against the drunken driving but not against marriage palaces. We are going through the legal opinion and conditions laid under SC verdict. We will decide the next step after reading and carefully going through the opinion," Punjab's excise and taxation department Commissioner, Vivek Pratap Singh, told The Statesman.

He further said that the marriage palaces are not falling under the limits of highways were getting permits. Meanwhile, president of Punjab Marriage Palace Owners' Association in Ludhiana, Sukhdev Singh Sidhu, welcomed the AG's opinion.

"The excise and taxation department should not take much time as the opinion is already taken after looking into the SC's verdict. We have already suffered a huge revenue loss after a dip in the number of bookings. If we will not get the permits for liquor serving in the next few days it will further dampen the spirits of Punjabi families who have invited guests to celebrate their functions," he said.

According to a rough estimate, the marriage palaces in Punjab have suffered nearly 75 per cent dip in bookings after SC imposed a ban on liquor vends within the 500 metre of a highway. Out of 3,500 registered marriage palaces in Punjab nearly 1,000 falls under the proximity to the highways.

After the SC's verdict, families were forced to book marriage halls at the inner parts with lesser facilities just to attend their guests while serving booze.

Two weeks ago, in an attempt to provide a relief to the affected marriage owners, the Punjab government had de-notified the state highways of Hoshiarpur-Chandigarh, Balachaur-Garshankar, Moga-Kotkapura, Moga-Harike, Gagan Chowk to Liberty Chowk, JCS Saviour School to Bhaironpur Sirhind Chunni Road, Malikpur Chowk to Dalhousie by-pass.

The move had also led to benefit around 300 restaurants and bars situated alongside the highways.