With just three days left for liquor outlets located within 500 mts from a highway to stop selling liquor, the BBMP, the Excise Department and the Public Works Department are scrambling to figure out if six stretches running across Bengaluru are in fact national highways.
The Palike, which is still using the outdated hard copy method of filing, now has to dig through records dating back to the 1970s to figure out if the previous civic administrations had got the highways running through Bengaluru denotified.
"It is still not 100% clear if MG Road was denotified or if any of the other highways were denotified. We are looking through past records to determine this," a senior BBMP official said.
According to Karnataka Law Minister TB Jayachandra, a team of officials have been in constant touch with the Centre in this regard.
"The team of officials, headed by a senior official with the Finance Department, has been in talks with their central government counterparts. The Centre has said that it has to look into the legalities and possibilities of denotifying these stretches. We have not yet got any official response from them," Jayachandra told TNM.
The bar owners, however are in a fix, as they allege that the excise department has urged them to pay the license fee with assurances that all will be well.
"Excise department officials are telling us to pay the licence fee. We don't know if they are saying that just to take money from us to generate revenue or if the denotifiction will actually come true. We don't know if we can believe what the department officials are saying as we don't want to end up losing our money if the Centre does not approve of the request," a member of the Bengaluru Pub and Bar Owners' Association told TNM.
Meanwhile, excise department officials have started conducting ground level surveys to identify the specific outlets which fall within 500 mts of the six national highways that run through the city.
"We have begun measuring the distance of the retail liquor outlets, bars, pubs and restaurants which serve alcohol from the national highways. The licences for these establishments will not be renewed," said Rajendra Prasad, Additional Commissioner of Excise.
The BBMP has been maintaining these stretches since the 1990s, when the National highways authority of India handed over the maintenance to the Palike. Despite being the custodian of these a stretches, the Palike, with its outdated methods of maintaining records has now landed around 340 liquor outlets in trouble. It remains to be seen whether the Palike will indeed find the documents which will give clarity on the issue.