A big relief for the state government – SC exempts some areas of Uttarakhand from highway liquor ban

Hilly regions of Uttarakhand had been witnessing protests since a few days as liquor shops had started opening in residential areas following the enforcement of the 500-metre ban.

The apex court order of December 15, 2016, had put a ban on liquor shops within 500 metres of state and national highways. There was a slight modification made on March 31, where in areas less than a population of 20,000 had to keep a 220-metre distance from the highway. Sikkim and Meghalaya were exempted from the order.

The opening of liquor shops in the residential area, especially in areas near schools, was being objected by the locals, especially women. Uttarakhand had approached the Supreme Court in April to ask them to exempt Uttarakhand as well owing to its peculiar geographical terrain.

A huge relaxation as, after hearing the case, the Supreme Court, on Friday, exempted nine districts – Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Uttarkashi, Champawat, Pauri, Pithoragarh, Bageshwar, Almora, and Tehri – from the ban. In Dehradun district, only three tehsils – Chakrata, Tyuni and Kalsi – were exempted. And in Nainital district, only four tehsils – Dhari, Nainital, Betalghat, and Kosya Kutauli – have been exempted from the ban.

The ban however still persists in the plain districts of Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar, and the plain regions of Dehradun and Nainital districts.

State excise commissioner, Yugal Kishore Pant said, “Liquor vends in the hills gives us excise revenue between 37 to 40% and the exemption will now help to ensure minimum loss of revenue” as far as the financial implications of the order go.

He, along with Mukesh Giri, the state advocate general, added that exemption was sought by providing evidence that Uttarakhand should be treated at par with Sikkim since it has similar topographical constraints.

This step restores the peace as the protests can now come to an end.

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