Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Tuesday said that a prohibition on the sale of liquor in Jammu and Kashmir was a “policy decision” for the government to take, even as it sought the government’s reply within a week as to when such shops should be opened and closed in the state.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey also directed the government, through the Chief Secretary, to respond on the issue of the location of liquor shops near educational institutions, hospitals, places of worship and highways. The bench said this while hearing a PIL filed by Karwan-e-Islam, a religious organisation, seeking a ban on the sale and consumption of liquor in J&K, on the pattern of states like Kerala, Gujarat, Manipur and the union territory of Lakshadweep. “Bearing the same (that it’s a policy decision for the government) in mind, one week’s notice is issued to the respondents to respond in so far as giving directions regarding location of liquor shops near educational institutions, hospitals, places of worship, national and state highways, and on what time the liquor shops should be opened and closed,” the Court said and fixed October 6 as the next date of hearing on the PIL.
Besides seeking the closure of liquor shops and such establishments, the PIL also seeks the rehabilitation of those involved in the business as well as providing necessary counselling to alcohol addicts.
Apart from the Chief Secretary, the notice has been issued to Principal Secretary Home, Director General of Police, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and the Inspector General of Police Kashmir range.
Karwan-e-Islam, through its chairman Sheikh Ghulam Rasool Hami, has sought the court’s intervention claiming that the government has failed to take necessary steps for banning liquor in the state. “Alcohol is freely available at different places in the state and the common masses have easy access to such places,” Hami stated in the PIL, filed through advocates Firdous Ahmad Parray and Mudasir Naqshbandi.
“Alcohol ruins an individual physically and mentally. The addict loses his sense of decency,” said Hami. Referring to Part-IV of the Indian Constitution under Article 47, he said the states must endeavor to bring about prohibition of consumption, except for medicinal purposes, of intoxicating drinks and drugs which are injurious to health. “Article 38 of the Constitution of India also imposes an obligation on states to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of people and the same cannot be achieved without good public health,” he added.
The Constitution of J&K, under Section 24, he said, also makes it the state’s duty to improve and safeguard public health. “This section further imposes an obligation on the state of Jammu and Kashmir to curb the sale and consumption of liquor.” Invoking M K Gandhi, Hami said that the Indian father of the nation had spoken against the use of income from the sale of intoxicants on education and public services, leave alone the consumption of alcohol.