It could be cheers again soon for Bengaluru. Pubs, bars and alcohol stores within city limits that had run afoul of the highway liquor ban may soon start serving alcohol again.
The Supreme Court paved the way for this on Tuesday, by allowing state governments the power to denotify highways that ran through municipal limits.
This will come as a major relief to around 741 such establishments, which had stopped serving alcohol from July 1, as they stood within a 500m distance of highways that ran through Bengaluru city.
"The Supreme Court order is in favour of all bar/ pubs within the city limits. Now we are just waiting for the state government to act at the earliest so that we can go back to normal life again," Ashok Sadhwani, a member of the Bengaluru Pub Ownersâ€™ Association told TNM.
The SC decision on Tuesday, say bar owners, will save the businesses of hundreds of outlets, the jobs of thousands who worked in these establishments and save significant portions of the state governmentâ€™s revenue.
On Tuesday, a three-judge bench comprising of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justices DY Chandrachud and LN Rao dismissed a PIL challenging a Punjab and Haryana High Court order allowing Chandigarhâ€™s decision to denotify highways in urban areas, reported The Times of India.
â€śIf a state has the authority to denotify a highway to municipal road, then we will test whether it is doing so to violate the SC order. If they had denotified highways outside city limits, then we would have taken umbrage. But they have done so within city limits,â€ś the bench was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Even on Monday, 500 bar and pub owners in the city had carried out a protest march against the ban, despite assurances from the state government that the issue will be resolved within a weekâ€™s time.
M Meharwade, Treasurer of the Federation of Wine Merchantsâ€™ Association had said that the protest on Monday was staged to save the livelihoods of 6,000 people associated with the alcohol industry.
â€śOur industry generates revenues of around Rs 18,000 crore. This ban is causing losses of around Rs 15 crore a day,â€ť another member of the association told the media on Monday.
The application of the highway liquor ban to roads running within Bengaluru had raised major problems for Bengaluru. While the Karnataka government had approached the Centre to denotify stretches of six National Highways running through the city, the Centre had not responded to this request. The Karnataka government had planned to send a team led by a senior official from the finance department to the national capital over this issue.
The Karnataka government had also planned to file a review petition with the Supreme Court, if the denotification avenue did not pan out. However, it had ruled out any legal amendments allowing establishments serving alcohol on highways.