• To bypass SC’s highway liquor ban, Punjab denotifies 12 stretches passing through cities

    The Punjab government has found a way to reduce the effect of the Supreme Court’s orders banning sale or serving of liquor within 500 metres of national and state highways. The state government on Tuesday denotified 12 such highway stretches that pass through cities and towns but for which bypasses were already built.

    Due to the ban, the state had apprehended a loss of Rs 1,300 as revenue this fiscal for the excise and taxation department that governs liquor sale. Now, sources said, the denotification of the bypassed stretches would offer some respite, though that would be quantified only later.

    The seven state highway stretches denotified by the public works department are in the districts SAS Nagar, Pathankot, Moga, Hoshiarpur, Patiala, Fatehgarh Sahib, and Nawanshahr. The excise department is now calculating how many liquor shops, including bars, were on these stretches before the SC order came into effect from April 1.

    The notification says, “The government over the years constructed a number of bypasses on state highways to decongest select cities. As a consequence, the bypassed parts of these highway passing through the cities are no more required to be state highways.”

    The five NH?stretches denotified, thus realigned, include NH-1 from Shambhu to Attari border with bypasses in Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Amritsar; NH-15 from Pathankot to Abohar with six bypasses; NH-64 from Zirakpur to Bathinda with bypasses in Patiala, Dhanaula and Sangrur; NH-344A from Phagwara to Rupnagar with a bypass in Phagwara; and NH-95 from Kharar to Ferozepur with a bypass in Morinda.

    The excise department had apprehended removal of 1,500 liquor shops and bars on the highways. Bars inside hotels and restaurants were expected to fetch about Rs 1,400 crore before the ban, but Rs 800 crore of that was from bars within the 500-metre ban radius. The department is expecting revenue of Rs 5,400 crore from liquor this fiscal.

    “We will examine the notification and see how much of the loss can be recovered,” said additional excise and taxation commissioner Gurtej Singh.

    Neighbouring Rajasthan has declared state highways passing through inhabited areas as urban roads or district roads to circumvent the SC order. Bo Horvat Jersey

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