SRINAGAR: The J&K High Court on Wednesday sought a list of liquor shops located on state highways by October 27 even as the government claimed that a complete ban on sale of alcoholic beverages could cost Rs 800 cr to the state exchequer annually.
The government also claimed that the ban will hit 6,000 jobs and will result in freight loss to the transporters whose 15,000 vehicles are associated with the trade.
“Respondents are directed to file status report indicating list of liquor shops located on state highways,” a division bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Hasnain Massodi said and directed the government to do so by the next date of hearing in the case on 27 October.
The bench also impleaded Jammu wine traders through its president Charanjeet Singh as a party to the case filed by Karwan-e-Islam, a religious organisation, seeking a ban on the sale and consumption of liquor in J&K.
Earlier, the government in its report said that the complete ban on the sale and consumption of the liquor was going to prove costly.
“From time to time, the country has tried to get its citizens to stop drinking liquor but this has encouraged bootlegging and spurious liquor. As such, total prohibition in the state of J&K in isolation shall prove counterproductive as it will result not only in loss of revenue due interstate smuggling of liquor but also may lead to manufacture of spurious liquor and consequent deaths of poor consumers,” reads the report.
The ban, it said, can cause loss of near about Rs 500 crore annual Excise Revenue to be levied and collected by the Excise department and about Rs 300 crores sales tax under GST Act 1962 to be collected by Commercial Taxes Department, totaling a loss of about Rs 800 crores to the state exchequer.
“It can result in loss of employment to at least 6000 persons (total 6000 families will be affected) involved in the trade at different levels i.e. licensees, salesmen, barmen, mangers, workforce in bottling plants, distilleries, wholesale traders etc.”
The ban, the government said, can also cause loss to transporters “as nearly 15000 vehicles perform freight work round the year in the trade.”
“It can result in birth of underground liquor mafias in the state which shall lead the anti-social and anti-national elements to resort to money laundering and hawala type of transactions, which shall be detrimental to the state’s economy and security,” it said, adding it can also severely affect the bottle manufacturing industry as during 2014-15, 544 lakh bottles were consumed.
The ban can also result in clandestine smuggling of liquor into the state from other, the government said, adding it can also cause illicit distillation which in long run shall affect the health of citizens consuming the liquor.
Advocate general Jahangir Iqbal Ganie represented the state while advocate Firdous A Parray pleaded the case for petitioner organisation.