The government, in the event of failing to seek any concession from the Supreme Court, as regards ban on liquor outlets including bars, located within 500 metres of the state and the national highways in the country from April 1, 2017, may declare all the state highways in Goa as major district roads (MDRs), vide a notification, in the final week of the ongoing month, as a last resort to protect some of these outlets from closing down.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, after taking over the state administration had maintained that his government would look into the prospects of approaching the Supreme Court for seeking concession to the liquor outlets in Goa, whose very existence has been threatened by this order of the apex court. The government is also likely to argue that the hotels and bars do not come under the purview of the apex court order.
Meanwhile, the excise department is awaiting direction from the government as regards sending ‘notices of closure’ to the liquor outlets coming within the purview of the Supreme Court order.
State Excise Commissioner Menino D’Souza maintained that there are altogether four national highways passing through the state, while eight state highways in Goa. “However, we have more stretches of national highways in Goa,” he said.
It may be recalled that the apex court had ordered the particular ban after hearing a case over the alarming statistics on the occurrence of road accidents, which claimed thousands of human lives every year.
A senior government bureaucrat told ‘The Navhind Times’ that a period of less than two weeks is left for the implementation of the Supreme Court order. “We will have to approach the Supreme Court seeking concession for Goa, at the earliest,” he added, pointing out, “Furthermore, if the apex court provides no relief, then the state government could de-notify the state highways and declare them as MDRs.”
Additional Solicitor General of India, Atmaram Nadkarni, speaking to this daily maintained that the state government can immediately declare the tate highways as major district roads. “However, for declaring the national highways as the MDRs, the state government will have to approach the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways,” he said.
Interestingly, the Chandigarh administration on March 17, 2017, issued a notification converting all its state highways into major district roads with immediate effect to circumvent the December 15, 2016, Supreme Court direction, thus legalising all the liquor outlets along the erstwhile state highways in Chandigarh.
As per a report recently presented by the excise department to the state government, around 3,270 liquor outlets in Goa are located within 500 metres of the state and national highways, and are facing imminent shutdown.
It is estimated that around 11,000 people, including 921 licence holders – includes 789 retailers selling alcohol in packed bottles, 33 alcohol warehouses and 99 wholesale dealers – and 8,000 families are dependent on the sale of alcohol in Goa.