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Dispur mulls excise rule change for a drop

Aug. 20: Dispur is considering amending sections of the Assam Excise Rule, 1945, which was earlier amended in 2005, following an interim order of Gauhati High Court, resulting in the closure of liquor shops and bars within 500-metre radius of educational and religious institutions, hospitals, dispensaries and courts in the city.

Assam excise department minister Ajit Singh told The Telegraph that the government was considering to amend the rule, as more than 10,000 people working in liquor shops and bars in the city have become jobless because of the closure of liquor shops and bars.

It has also led to huge amount of revenue loss.

“We will definitely have to amend the rules and are discussing on how to do the same,” Singh said.

Though the minister did not divulge details, sources said the government was considering amending the Section 183 (2) of the Assam Excise Rule, which was amended in 2005.

The move comes after Gauhati High Court on August 9 had issued an interim order to the Kamrup (metro) district administration to shut down the liquor shops violating the rule, during the hearing of a writ petition filed by Arun Pathak, owner of Mid Town Bar in Christanbasti.

The bar was closed down by the administration on March 31.

The district administration had issued a closure notice to the bar citing public complaints of indiscipline, but the owner of the bar questioned the action of the administration and moved the high court.

During hearing of the writ petition (2856/2012), senior government advocate B. Chetri submitted an affidavit stating that according to government rule, no liquor shop or bar will be permitted to function within a radius of 500 metres from hospitals, dispensaries, nursing homes, religious, educational or similar buildings or institutions.

Following the submission by the state government, the court observed that the same should be applied uniformly and not selectively.

The order resulted in the closure of almost all the 300 liquor shops and 128 bars in the city and stopped the daily revenue collection of around Rs 36 lakh by the Kamrup district excise department.

The state excise department has already informed the high court that the government was actively considering the issue of amendment of the excise rule in general and Rule 183 (2) in particular.

The department, however, informed the court that the exercise would take some time.

On August 14, the department submitted an application in the court with a plea to re-consider its order because the licences, which were granted prior to May 2005, could not be cancelled.

It also informed the court that the state government had earned revenue worth Rs 115.16 crore from Kamrup district, which included the city during the financial year 2011-2012.

The order would adversely affect the livelihood of 441 licence-holders and around 50,000 families, who are directly or indirectly involved in the liquor trade.