Vendors make spirited bid to skirt liquor ban

Vendors make spirited bid to skirt liquor ban

 Liquor vendors in Karnataka are in no mood to shut shop from July 1 to honour the Supreme Court ban on sale of alcohol near highways.

They have begun scouting for ways to circumvent the ban, including pressing the state government to denotify some stretches of the state highways to allow business as usual.
Hundreds of members of the Federation of Wine Merchants’ Associations of Karnataka met in Bengaluru on Tuesday, their first united effort after the Supreme Court refused to relax its order.

The jam-packed meeting in a city hotel, discussed various options to overcome the Supreme Court ban, which takes  effect from July 1, the start of the new excise year in Karnataka.
In some other states, including Kerala and West Bengal, the court order has already come into force as their excise year starts on April 1. The affected vendors’ first option is to pressure the government to denotify at least a few stretches on the state highways, as done in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

Upgradation and notification of roads as state highways come under the jurisdiction of the state government, which also maintains them. Denotifying state highways will mean that their upkeep will be the responsibility of jurisdictional district administration.

The meeting also weighed the option of holding massive agitations in various parts of the state to pressure the government.

Another option discussed is filing a curative petition in the Supreme Court.
“We have already exhausted the option of filing a review petition with the Supreme Court refusing to relax its order on March 31.

A curative petition can be filed on the ground that the order is emotion-charged,” Association General Secretary Govindaraj Hegde said. As many as 2,767 liquor vends and 2,047 bars and restaurants will be affected by the apex court order in Karnataka. Restaurants which fall in this category will have to stop serving liquor.

If all these options fail, the Association is mulling over requesting the government time till December 31 to shift their existing liquor stocks and not to forcefully evict them. Until such time, they will not sell liquor at their shops. Thammana, a liquor shop owner on the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway, said he will be financially hit by the Supreme Court order. “There is an option to relocate. But what is the point in relocating to a place where there is no demand,” he said.

Babaiah K, who runs a liquor shop near Gokak, said shifting liquor shops will not stop drunken driving. “Those who want  liquor will get it anyway,” he said. Law Minister T B Jayachandra admitted that the apex court decision will affect the state’s resource mobilisation. “We have sought legal opinion whether existing laws may be amended to provide some relief. We will also watch the other states and take a stand,” he said.

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