The Bombay High Court Wednesday allowed hotels and liquor stores in the Andheri (East) Assembly constituency to sell liquor after the declaration of results or by 6 pm, whichever is earlier on the counting day (November 6) of the upcoming by-polls.
The association of hotels and restaurants had approached the high court challenging a notification issued by the state excise department which prohibited the sale of liquor in the area starting 48 hours from the voting day (November 3) and also included the entire counting day of November 6. After the state government made a statement that the sale of liquor may be permitted on the counting day after results are declared or by 6 pm, whichever is earlier, the bench accepted the same.
A vacation bench of Justice Nitin R Borkar and Justice Kamal R Khata Wednesday heard pleas by the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (popularly known as AHAR) as well as the Association of Progressive Retail Liquor Vendors which challenged a notification issued by the state Excise Department on October 18.
The pleas claimed that the decision was “contrary to and ultra vires” of the provisions of the Maharashtra Prohibition Act, 1949 and the Rules framed under it including Foreign Liquor Rules and Cash Register Rules. The petitioners contended that the authorities cannot simultaneously apply the provisions of the Representation of People Act, which is a central legislation, in respect of the same election.
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As per the notification, the sale of liquor within the Andheri (East) constituency area for which by-polls are being held is prohibited starting 48-hour prior to voting day. The prohibition period began on November 1 and would continue till November 3, the date of polling. The notification also prohibited the sale of liquor on November 6, when the votes will be counted.
On Monday, another bench had sought to know from the state why the sale of liquor cannot take place after 6 pm on November 6.
On Wednesday, advocates RD Soni and Sameer Pandit for the petitioners submitted that the prohibition on the sale of liquor on the entire counting day was arbitrary and unnecessary and the circular be modified.
Additional government pleader Milind More for the state government said the courts had earlier allowed the sale of alcohol post 6 pm on counting day in specific cases. He said notification of ‘dry-day’ was issued by the excise department in compliance with rules stipulated by the Election Commission of India and provisions of the Representation of the People Act.
More, on instructions from the official from the state excise department made a statement in court that the sale of liquor may be permitted on the counting day in Andheri (East) after results are declared or by 6 pm, whichever is earlier. The bench took the statement on record and accepted the same.
It said that the issue is pending before the court for final decision, it would be appropriate to place the plea for further consideration before the Regular court.