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The Supreme Court had ordered a ban on liquor shops and bars on national and state highways across the country from April 2017. In an attempt to recover revenue loss owing to the closures, the Kerala government plans to denotify 4,342 km state highways and rechristen them as major district roads, reported The Times of India.
The CPM and chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had approved the idea and asked the matter to be placed before the cabinet which is expected to consider a proposal in this regard on August 23. The excise department had reportedly favoured denotifying the state highways, however, the public works department (PWD) urged that it should be a collective decision of the cabinet. Subsequently, this was forwarded to the chief minister.
At least 479 bars and liquor vends have been shut since the SC’s April 1 order, as per the excise department which also estimates that the exchequer will lose one-tenth of its revenue from liquor sales owing to the closure.
It is believed that the state government is losing approximately Rs 3 crore per day owing to the closure. This will soon cross Rs 1,000 a year as liquor outlets function approximately 345 days a year.
Last year, Kerala earned Rs 10,500 crore from the sale of alcohol including sales tax, excise duty, licence fee and other proceeds.
Last month, the SC had said that roads within the cities can be denotified as national highways. Since then many state governments including Karnataka, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, etc have denotified their highways as district roads.
Punjab had even amended the Punjab Excise Act, 1914 and inserted a clause 14 (a) according to which ‘liquor vends’ shall mean retail shops that are licensed to sell liquor and shall not include any hotels, clubs, restaurants or any such notified places. Thus exempting the bar hotels along the highways from under the ambit of the Supreme Court.
If the cabinet clears the Kerala government’s proposal, the state will have to amend the Kerala Highway Protection Act, 1999 that came to force on 20 January 2000.
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