Highway Liquor Waits Come Back

The liquor shops on National Highway (NH) stretches that fall within the limits of cities and towns are still waiting for staging a comeback.

While several other State Governments have already allowed opening of liquor shops alongside highways within municipal areas, Odisha Government is yet to come out with any notification extending such permission.
Odisha Government is still continuing consultions with legal experts  When State governments of Delhi, West Bengal and Kerala have already notified for opening the liquor shops on the stretches of State and National Highways in urban limits, said sources. 
Even as the State Government, which has set a target of Rs.3300 crore of revenue from excise sector, continues its consultations with senior legal experts on the order of the Supreme Court on opening of liquor shops alongside NHs and/or Highways in urban limits, the process is getting inordinately delayed, admit officials. This will help a large number of liquor shops, hotels and restaurants to reopen their liquor selling counters for the customers.  
The State government closed down as many as 1167 liquor shops from midnight of March 31 this year following the pronouncement of the Apex Court’s order proscribing liquor sale along Highways on December 15 last year,. 
It was apprehended that the State would sustain a loss Rs.1200 crore of excise revenue in 2017-18 due to such an order.
Strictly complying with the Apex Court order, Excise Administration of Odisha government sealed 456 Off Shops, 206 Restaurants, 60 Hotel On shops, 74 Country Spirit shops, 51 Beer Parlours and others.
Subsequently, when several other State Governments in a bid to avoid closure of liquor shops in their respective states in the wake of a Supreme Court order notified the State Highways passing through the Urban Centers as “Urban Roads”,  the Odisha Government followed the move and renamed the State Highways passing through cities and towns as 'Urban Roads'.
The roads passing through the municipal corporations, municipalities, notified area councils and sub-divisional headquarters have been re-designated as "Urban Roads", said an official.
Besides these, the Works Department also classified all road sections falling within the limits Block headquarters and Tehsil headquarters as "Urban Roads", said a State government notification.
However, the notification did not cover National Highways passing through the urban areas. So those shops on the side of State Highways were allowed to open.

Later  the Supreme Court on July 11 this year clarified that its original order to ban sale in liquor shops and bars within 500 Meter of Highways was aimed at vends along roads connecting cities and not along the stretches that fall inside the city or town areas governed by municipal bodies.

"The purpose of the directions contained in the order dated 15 December 2016 is to deal with the sale of liquor along and in proximity of highways properly understood which provide connectivity between cities, towns and villages. The order does not prohibit licensed establishments within municipal areas. This clarification shall govern other municipal areas as well. We have considered it appropriate to issue this clarification to set at rest any ambiguity ...," stated an order by a Supreme Court Bench, headed by former Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar.
Now, it is expected that the Odisha Government will follow what other State Government have done by lifting ban on liquor shops along the National Highway stretches soon, feel officials. 

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