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Liquor stores may remain shut for longer as SC order lacks clarity


BENGALURU: The pub-hopping crowd may have to wait longer for their favourite watering holes to reopen.

Despite the Supreme Court (SC) observation saying that states can denotify highways within cities to allow liquor stores, bars and pubs to start functioning, Karnataka appears to be caught in midst of election politics. Lack of clarity in the SC order is also proving to be a hindrance.

Top government officials said there’s no clarity over whether the state can suo motu denotify national highways cutting through cities or if it requires the permission of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the ministry of road transport and highways (MORTH).

“We are hoping to get the law department’s opinion, which will assist us in denotifying highways passing through the city unilaterally,” said a senior bureaucrat.

According to officials, the law department has been given a single point agenda of identifying means for the state government to suo motu denotify NH stretches. PWD principal secretary M D Lakshminarayana said his department is still awaiting the law department’s opinion. “We are yet to receive the official copy of the SC order. We are hoping for some reprieve,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state government has placed the blame on the Centre for delaying all requests of denotifying national highways crisscrossing cities in Karnataka purely based on political considerations. Taking the onus of denotifying stretches in Karnataka in an election year may prove detrimental to the BJP’s fortunes.

The same may be the case in other states that will go to polls later this year. When asked whether the government can implement the Punjab or Himachal Pradesh model of passing a legislation to denotify highways, state government officials were sceptical and said it depends on the law department’s opinion. “It will be bad publicity for us,” said a government official.

It may be recalled that Punjab and HP, which are also Congress-ruled states, found it tough to save liquor stores and hence passed special legislations. Karnataka also faces an uphill task of politically convincing the Centre to allow denotification of national highways.

Source: Times of India

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