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Relief to over 90% outlets from SC order on highway liquor ban

PANAJI: More than 90 per cent of the 3,200 liquor outlets in the state will be allowed to conduct business once the latest relief given by the Supreme Court on its highway liquor ban order is implemented.

Sources in the excise department on Wednesday said that the process to exclude 1,021 liquor outlets from the apex court order is in the final stages.

“Approval is expected shortly from the finance department, as the file has already been forwarded,” said the source. The source said that a few procedures remain for the most recent relaxation to be put into effect after which licences of the 1,021 outlets will be accepted for renewal.

Expressing satisfaction at the progress, Datta Prasad Naik, president, Goa Liquor Traders Association, said that the affected liquor outlet owners can expect to get their licence renewed in the next eight days. He said that the Association is keenly following the issue.

On February 2018, the apex court left it to the state governments to decide on whether areas covered by local self-governing bodies or areas proximate to municipal pockets should be exempted from its nationwide prohibition on sale of liquor along highways.

Following this, a government-appointed committee recommended to the finance department that the liquor outlets falling in the areas contiguous to municipalities or those which are sufficiently developed be notified as cluster towns and excluded from the apex court order. The committee estimated 1,021 outlets as falling within cluster towns.

The apex court order initially affected 3,200 liquor outlets, bars and restaurants in the state. However, following two relaxations, around 1,860 outlets were saved from closure and their licences renewed.

With the latest relief of ‘cluster towns,’ another 1,021 are on the verge of being saved. Only around 300 liquor licences are, therefore, affected by the apex court order and even they could be bailed out, as the government said that the issue (of the 300 outlets) will be taken up on a case-to-case basis.

The apex court order that came into effect on April 1, 2017, was to prevent accidents due to drunk driving alongside highways. The order banned liquor outlets within 500-metre distance of highways in all states.

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