Manipal bars and pubs unclear on SC liquor ban order
Manipal: Following the Supreme Court verdict of December 15, 2016 that ordered a ban on all liquor shops operating within 500 metres of national and state highways with effect from April 1, 2017, bars and pubs in and around Manipal are uncertain about where they stand in light of the verdict and insist that they will continue to function as usual after March 31 since they haven’t received an official notice.
The SC order has also directed state governments to not renew the licenses of such liquor vendors after March 31, 2017. The order was passed on the basis of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Arrive Safe, an NGO founded in 2005 by Harman Singh Sidhu, who took up the cause after surviving a road accident in 1996.
The petition alleged liquor vendors as responsible for fatalities caused by drunken driving in road accidents. The move by the SC attempts to reduce such fatalities by curbing access to liquor. Additionally, through this order, it was also decided that all sign boards indicating the presence of liquor shops will be prohibited on all highways.
The latest update on this verdict seems to stress on the fact that the ban is not applicable to bars, pubs and restaurants that serve alcohol along the highways. It highlights that the SC judgement would have clearly specified the same if it had intended to bring other establishments serving liquor to patrons into the purview.
As far as Manipal is concerned, the town has a part of the 87 kilometre-long National Highway 169 A, passing through the city. The area around the highway is home to most of Manipal’s bars and pubs where the clubbing culture of the student town is concentrated. Amongst these, bars like Zeal – The Rooftop, Dee Tee, Hide Out, Pitstop and Hakuna Matata are aware of the aforementioned SC order but remain uncertain about their future plans.
Zero Degrees is one among the many bars that lie under the threat of closing down or relocation owing to the SC order. || Photograph Courtesy: Mahalakshmi R
Employees at T-Spirit and Café 18, bars that are situated on the same road as the rest have stated that their owners are considering about relocating their venture to a new undecided location once the rules of the verdict come into play post-March 31.
“If the SC does want to enforce a liquor ban, then it should be applicable to all liquor vendors and bars, and not just limited to those along the highways, as the one who wants liquor will find a means to get access to it anywhere,” said the owner of a liquor store in Manipal, on condition of anonymity.
With March 31 nearing, these shops are unsure of their fate and the course of action they will take if their shops get an official notice. They are still awaiting the court’s verdict on the review petition filed by the state. Moreover, the liquor licenses in the area are renewed every June, so liquor vendors are yet to clarify whether they can function till June this year, or will face the ban from the beginning of next month.
Ever since the verdict was passed by the SC, state governments including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Pondicherry have explored the option of filing a review petition with the hope to modify the ban order.
Many such applications were rejected by the SC which stated that a state or union territory should not give license to liquor shops on the highways on the pretext of revenue generation. Instead, they should help reduce cases of drunken driving. This order has led to the discussion of survival for liquor vendors after March 3 in places like Chandigarh, Gurgaon and Goa since a majority of the roads are national or state highways.
Featured Image Courtesy: Mahalakshmi R
Edited by Shriya Ramakrishnan