The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Spot bar on wine shops
- Licence restraint on excise department

A division bench of Calcutta High Court upheld the judgment of the single bench, restraining the excise department from issuing licences to foreign liquor shops within 1,000 feet of hospitals, educational institutions and places of worship.

The ruling has put the state excise department in a spot, as 80 per cent of wine shops in the city, which were awarded their licences after 2000, are located near such places.

On Tuesday, Chief Justice A. K. Mathur and Justice J. Biswas, in their judgment, supported the directive of Justice Ashok Ganguly of the same court, who observed that no wine shop should be located within 1,000 feet of educational institutions, clinics and places of worship.

The judgment will also prevent the excise department from issuing fresh licences to wine shops in the city, which fall under this distance bar.

Many such applications are pending with the excise department.

“The actual distance has not been pointed out in the rule. But the single judge (Justice Ganguly) had rightly decided that it should not be less than 300 yards, or 1,000 feet,” the judges said.

Earlier, a petition filed by Arindam Ghosh and Pratap Kumar Sahoo of Hem Chandra Naskar Road, in Beleghata, alleged that the excise department had issued a licence to a wine shop near two hospitals in their area.

Biswajit Basu and Shusenjit Banik, counsel for the petitioners, argued that according to the new excise rules, there was a bar on issuing licences to wine shops in close proximity to schools, colleges, hospitals and religious places. “But the respondents had submitted that there was no clear directive on the exact distance.”

Justice Ganguly then appointed a special officer to ascertain the distance between the Beleghata hospitals and the wine shop.

The special officer, in his report, submitted that the two hospitals — B. C. Roy Polio Hospital (old) and B. C. Roy Polio Hospital (new) — were within 1,000 feet of the wine shop.

Justice Ganguly then said that the wine shop should not be granted a licence but the shop-owner filed an appeal before the division bench. However, the division bench, too, held the same view.

After Ganguly’s ruling, a number of petitions were filed in different city courts, challenging the authority of the excise department in issuing the licences to the wine shops in respective areas.

“The confirmation of the single bench judgment in the division bench will surely strengthen the cases of such petitions,” experts opined.

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