Odisha ‘No’ to SC liquor ban on National, State Highways

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Bhubaneswar: Close on the heels of Supreme Court banning sale of liquor on all State and National Highways effective 1 April, 2017, the Odisha government on Sunday straightaway said it’s not possible to shift the liquor shops as it may hamper business of the wine merchants.

Odisha Excise minister Damodar Rout told this to media when asked the State government’s plan to implement the apex court’s directive.

“It’s not possible to shift liquor shops 500 metre from the national highways. If shifted, cases may come up where there will be temples and mutts, and it will not be possible to open liquor shops in these areas. Besides, there may be public protests, opposing such counters in these areas. Then how the shops will be opened?” asked Rout.

“So, many (wine merchants) may lose interest to open such outlets due to these unavoidable circumstances,” the minister noted.

The minister’s reaction was obvious looking at the revenue target the State government has set for the year 2016-17. Department sources said, while the excise collection in 2015-16 was Rs 2,568 crore, the government expected an additional Rs 800 crore in the ongoing fiscal. Besides, the demonetisation has already made a visible impact on the liquor sales across the State.

Of the total 3,843 liquor shops in the state, 50 per cent have reported a decline in sales following banning of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes from November 8 mid-night, an official at the excise department said. The liquor is supplied to the licensed shops through Odisha State Beverage Corporation Limited (OSBC). The business of the Corporation has been considerably less during November in several districts as compared to earlier months, the official said, adding that the volume of liquor sale has also slipped in hotels and restaurants.

Meanwhile, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Odisha (HRAO) has said it will be difficult to shift the liquor shops.

“It’s not that easy to close the bar of a star hotel which is close to the national highway. It will lead to loss in business”, said Srinibas Subuddhi, secretary general, HRAO.

The wine merchants’ association has also said that it may knock SC doors opposing the order.
“We will soon call a managing body meeting and invite suggestions from all the members on the issue. We will take a call whether to move the Supreme Court on this”, stated Prabhat Das, secretary, All Orissa Wine Merchant Association.

On December 15, the Supreme Court ordered a ban on the sale of liquor on all State Highways, stating that all licenses of liquor shops in and around the National Highways would be closed. The apex court bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur, however, said that they can operate till March 31, 2017. No renewal of their licenses would be made thereafter.

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