The boom of liquor shops in Jammu and Kashmir: This RTI Has All the Answers

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Srinagar: Despite BJP ruled states enforcing a crackdown on meat and liquor, the successive J&K governments have issued licences indiscriminately for opening liquor vends in the un-served areas.

As per the RTI response by Department of Excise to application filed by activist Rohit Gupta, it has been found that there are 233 wine shops in the state J&K, out of which 61 wine shop licences are temporary which are functioning under Hon’ble Court Directions. Besides, there are 11 sub-vends in the state.

It is pertinent to note here that maximum number of Bar cum restaurant licences were granted in the year 2007-08

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BACKROUND

Following the High Court directions to notify new policy, excise department of Jammu and Kashmir notified a new excise policy for the year 2017-18 on March 30, 2017; thus making it clear that despite BJP being part of the state government, liquor would now flow even to those areas where the shops have not been opened since the dawn of independence.

Though the court had asked the state government to revisit its liquor policy and indirectly favoured a complete prohibition on flow of liquor in the state but state decided it is wiser to frame a new excise policy.

The Excise department has said that for determining un-served and underserved areas, Tehsil will be the basic unit in the rural areas and Municipal ward will be the basic unit in the urban areas. It has added that upon receipt of demand for granting new license in the un-served and underserved areas as determined above, the Excise Department will grant such license only through e-auction mode subject to other conditions fulfilled by the eligible highest bidder.

Excise department would notify detailed conditions and Modus Operandi for e-auction separately and that the grant of any new license will be for 5 years and the bid would include premium over and above the annual license fee to be paid by such highest bidder, as determined by the excise department from time to time. It has been further said that new Liquor vends shall be at minimum distance of 100 meters from religious places, schools, hospitals and nearest liquor shops.

In another major relief, the excise department has said that for the purpose of granting new licenses, all the 61 locations in the case titled Sandhya Devi & Others Vs State of J&K and others, shall be treated as available for granting new licenses except those locations falling within 500 meters of National and State highway as per the directions of Supreme Court. The process of granting new licenses on these locations, as in the case of all new licenses, shall be through e-auction supplemented by Technical & Financial Bid, says the new policy.

In the process of e-auction, excise policy has notified that if an eligible bidder has bid for more than one location, the license will be given to the highest eligible bidder for only one location of his choice. For other locations in this case, the next highest bidder will be allowed to match the highest bid and license will be given accordingly. If this doesn’t materialize such locations will again be put to auction. Liquor licenses shall be granted to the state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir only.

Those already having any manufacturing, bottling, brewery, wholesale or retail license will not be eligible to apply for any new license. On being asked, Excise Commissioner Mohammed Javed Khan said “We would be giving licences for new vends in the un-served areas only. No license would be given to those seeking it in the areas where the liquor shops are already available. This is to stop the sale of illegal liquor in these areas.” He added that the new liquor policy has ended the confusion which prevailed in the excise department since long.

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