Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Tuesday said the state government is considering moving the Supreme Court for "clarification" on its order banning liquor along highways.
He said the government may also seek to get a "special consideration" from the apex court for the tourist state. "Following the Supreme Court order pronounced on 31 March, around 1,000 out of 3,000-odd outlets (in Goa) that were facing closure, have got a respite," Parrikar told reporters.
Earlier in the day, he held a series of meetings with the liquor traders and other affected bodies including the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG).
"Now the issue is of only 2,000 outlets. Goa government feels that the state should have been given some special dispensation, but that right (lies) with the SC. To approach the apex court, we need to do proper documentation," the chief minister said. He stated that the government has already begun analysing the order.
The SC on 31 March modified its order banning liquor vends within 500 metres on national and state highways, reducing the distance to 220 metres in areas having a population of up to 20,000. However, a bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar, made it clear that its 15 December, 2016 order banning such vends within 500 metres of highways shall remain operative for areas other than specified in the latest order.
Goa, the famous beach destination for domestic and international tourists, is also known for cheap liquor. "We are contemplating the possibility of approaching the SC for proper clarification (on the order), and possibly (seek) some special consideration for the state," Parrikar added.
In the wake of the apex court order, the state government is working out a strategy to protect the affected vends from the impact. "The government will not charge any additional fees from such establishments that file applications to shift their premises outside 500 metres or 220 metres (which is the distance criteria mentioned in the SC order)," he said.
Parrikar said these establishments will be permitted to shift to new premises, "provided the premises fit into the criteria proposed by the Excise Rules and Regulations."
The state government has also "kept open the option" for the affected liquor outlets to sell their licenses to other persons, provided the new licensee operates from the premises which are outside the banned areas."The facility to shift to new premises or sell licenses would be made available for three years from now," the chief minister said.
He said the state government will also take a review of a notification pertaining to highways. "There are some highways which are yet to be denotified despite parallel highways being constructed in the form of bypasses," Parrikar said.
He said that the concerned departments have been asked to study files and give exact status about the highways in Goa. Parrikar said that wholesale licence holders, distributors and distilleries are not covered under the SC order "as it mentions only about the sale to the consumers."
"The special zones like Naval enclaves, airport and other areas, where common people do not have access, will not be covered under this (apex court's) order," he added.