Jammu, October 30: A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed for seeking ban on the sale and consumption of Alcohol in Jammu and Kashmir has been disposed off by the division bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Hasnain Massodi at the state’s high court. The high court disposed off the PIL with the observation that it is relevant to state at this juncture and reinstated that by merely etching the “Consumption of liquor is injurious to health” labels on liquor bottles, the evil of liquor cannot be stopped. Hence the excise department shall take necessary steps to educate the residents of the state regarding the evils of drinking liquor which will promote the policy behind Article 47 of the Constitution of India.
The bench observed that the stand taken by the state government in the reply affidavit read with Section 50 B of the J&K Excise Act, 1958 and directed to be strictly enforced by the official respondents and if there is any slackness on the part of the state authorities or the retail vendors, liberty is granted to the petitioner or any person who is effected or interested in the implementation of the restrictions to approach this court for appropriate directions by pointing out specific instance or instances of violation of the regulations and in such event this court will consider the grievance in accordance with law.
The bench also observed that the excise commissioner filed reply stating that the trade of liquor is regulated in the state under the J&K Excise Act, 1958 and the framed rules.
The reply by excise commissioner stated further that ban on liquor in state has encouraged bootlegging and spurious liquor during earlier times. Apart from this, it has flourished smuggling of liquor from other states that led to the loss of lives of poor consumers. Also, the state government will have to bear the loss of revenue to the tune of Rs 500 cr to the government per annum from the excise revenue and about Rs 300 cr towards Sales Tax. The Tourism will also GET effected as the state government is dependent upon the income from Tourism. There will be loss of employment to at least 6000 persons who are involved in the trade at different levels i.e. Licensees, Salesmen, Barmen, Managers, Workforce in Bottling Plants/Distilleries/Wholesale traders and loss of transport as nearly 15000 vehicles perform freight work in the trade.
As mentioned in a reply affidavit filed by the state, there are near about 40 liquor shops located on the national highways to which notices have been issued on September 21 and September 30 to shift their retail outlets to some other places within a period of three months in accordance with the norms/procedure in vogue failing which their licensed premises shall be closed without any further notice.