Panaji, April 1 (IANS) Claiming that alcohol is a part of Goan culture, the Congress on Saturday said due to the “laziness” of the BJP-led coalition government, the coastal state could not get relaxation from the Supreme Court’s ban on the sale of liquor along the national and state highways like Meghalaya and Sikkim.
The Congress also accused the BJP-led coalition government of trying to sneak in prohibition in the state through the back door.
“Wearing a suit and downing a small drink in the evenings is a part of Goan culture. The Congress will fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the thousands of bar owners to save their livelihoods which have been affected by the Supreme Court ban.
“The government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did not even make an effort to seek an exemption or a relaxation from the ban, when the case was being heard,” Congress MLA Aleixo Reginaldo told reporters at a press conference at the party’s state headquarters in Panaji.
The Supreme Court on Friday banned hotels and restaurants falling within 500 metres on either side of the national and state highways from serving liquor.
The top court, by its December 15, 2016 order, had banned sale of liquor within 500 metres on either side of the national and state highways.
A bench of Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Justice L. Nageswara Rao, however, relaxed the ban by reducing it to 220 metres in respect of municipal/local bodies with 20,000 or less population falling along the highways, while also exempting Sikkim and Meghalaya from the above restrictions.
One of the most popular tourism destinations in the country, Goa is well known for its liberal liquor regime, where alcohol is taxed less as compared to other states.
There are over 11,000 licensed liquor vendors in the state, including bar and restaurant licence holders and around 3,000 such outlets are facing the axe following the apex court order.
The Congress claims that the severity of the ban could have been lesser had the state government filed an intervention petition or challenged the ban before the order was passed.
“The fact is that the BJP, which has been ruling the state since 2012, did not make a single effort to file a revision petition in court or even plead to make the Goa government a party in the case. This looks like a plan to impose prohibition and the Gujarat model in Goa,” Leader of Opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar told reporters.