Complete ban on liquor not possible: Govt tells HC

  • Grants week’s time to file comprehensive report regarding its sale

Srinagar: The state government ruled out on Tuesday the possibility of imposing a complete ban on liquor, while saying nobody will be allowed to operate booze shops along the highway or in the proximity of schools or religious place.
“It is not possible to order total prohibition (on sale of liquor in the state),” excise commissioner said in a report furnished by advocate general Jahangir Iqbal Ganie before a division bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vassathakumar and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey during the hearing of a public interest litigation.
The statement was apparently in response to the observations by the high court last week that “the issue as to whether a total prohibition (on liquor sale) is to be strictly enforced or not is a policy decision to be taken by the state government.”
In the report, which was actually read out partly by the bench while perusing it, the excise commissioner has said that no permission has been issued to any person to operate liquor shops on the national highway or near schools or religious places in the state.
“Notices have already been issued to shopkeepers operating on the highway,” the excise commissioner said.
However, the court observed that the report was silent on operation of such shops along the state highways or in the proximity of hospitals. “The report also says timing has been notified but it has not specifically mentioned as to when the liquor shops should be opened or closed,” the bench said.
“This (report by excise commissioner) was received only today and we may be given some time to file the comprehensive reply,” the advocate general responded.
Besides, there has to be a label on liquor bottle that “it is injurious to health”, the bench said.
“Do you have the bottle?” the bench asked the advocate general, triggering laughter by lawyers present in the court room.
“No, no….we only want you to show us whether there is a label that liquor is injurious to health,” the bench replied quickly.
Subsequently, it allowed the request by the advocate general to file the comprehensive status report.
“You have to clear three points (location of liquor shops near hospitals, specific timing and the label),” the bench said and asked the government to file the reply by October 14.
The court was 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.
While advocate general and additional advocate general Tasaduq Khawaja represented the government, advocates Firdous Ahmad Parray and Mudasir Naqshbandi appeared on behalf of the petitioner.