No dry day on Feb 19: Bombay HC reduces liquor ban from 4 to 2.5 days in poll-bound Mumbai, Thane
Following a plea by the hotels’ association, the Bombay High Court on Friday modified the four day liquor ban, reducing it to two and a half days, imposed by State Excise department in Mumbai, Thane and other poll bound areas.
A bench of justices V M Kanade and P R Bora ruled that there was no need to impose ban on sale of liquor two days before the polls (i.e from February 19) and also for the entire day on the date of counting (February 23) considering that the votes are counted electronically and the process is completed by afternoon.
With this order, February 20, 21 and 23 (till results are declared) will remain as dry days. Both Mumbai and Thane municipal corporation elections will be held on February 21 and results will be declared on February 23.
One of the judges, after giving the order, quipped, “Anyways these days all political parties have become clever enough to store liquor prior to the dry days.”
The court was hearing a petition filed by the Hotel Owners Associations from Mumbai, Thane, Alibaug, and Nashik, challenging a circular issued on January 24 by the State Excise department.
The department had issued a notice declaring two days prior to the polling date as dry days (evening of February 19 till 5pm on February 21). It had also prohibited the sale of liquor for the entire day on February 23.
“We set aside the circular to the extent of ban on February 19. We are also of the view that it is not necessary to impose ban on sale of liquor after the results are declared on February 23,” the court said.
The petitioner’s lawyer submitted that the four-day ban was imposed under provisions of the Representation of People’s Act, but the Act applies only to Lok Sabha elections and not to civic polls.
The association also argued that since February 24 had already been declared a dry day on occassion of Mahashivratri, the liquor ban would be in force for five days, resulting in substantial loss in revenue.