India. Liquor to be sold to non-Muslims for their festivals only

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SHC recalls licences of wine shops throughout the province, observes Section 17 of Prohibition (enforcement of Hadd) Order, 1979 does not allow sale of liquor throughout the year.

The Sindh High Court on Tuesday directed the excise and taxation department director general to start the process of recalling licences granted to wine shops throughout the province observing that they were issued in violation of the law.

Hearing petitions against issuing licences to wine shops in Muslim-populated areas, SHC Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah observed that there was no provision under Section 17 of the Prohibition (enforcement of Hadd) Order, 1979 (part of the Hudood Ordinance) that created a legal possibility for granting general licences to liquor shops to operate throughout the year.

The court observed that non-Muslims could only be provided liquor for their religious ceremonies for which they have to request in advance and provide supporting evidence from their religious bodies.

The petitioner, Shaharyar David, had sought cancellation of the licences of wine shops in Defence and Clifton areas. He submitted that wine shop licences were used to retailers for selling liquor in Christian- and Hindu-populated areas.

He added that four liquor shops were operating in DHA Phase-VI and -V which were Muslim-populated areas and there was no justification for running them there.

He submitted that these wine shops were illegally operating in Muslim-populated areas and requested the court to direct the excise department to submit details of wine shop licences granted to retailers in Clifton and Defence and cancel them.

The court observed that the possession of liquor was prohibited except for non-Muslims during their religious ceremonies and there was no provision under the law that allowed wine shops to stock liquor for sale throughout the year.

To a court query, additional advocate general Mustafa Mahesar and the excise and taxation director general submitted that all licences were issued under Section 17 of the Prohibition (enforcement of Hadd) Order, 1979.

The director general submitted that the government had prescribed a monthly quota of 16 cans of beer and eight bottles each of 750 ml of Pakistani manufactured or foreign liquor for each non-Muslim in the province.

The director general, however, did not give any satisfactory reply when the court inquired about the basis of intoxication and affordability of the quota and submitted that government had increased the licensing fee to Rs8 million to discourage individuals from obtaining liquor shop licences.

To court query, the director general submitted that no exercise for the determination of the need-base consumption of liquor during the religious ceremonies of non-Muslims took place.

The director general also filed a statement in connection with the sale of beer and liquor at the wine shops of Clifton and Defence.

The court after perusal of the record observed that showed that there was an astonishingly high sale of liquor in last three months at these shops.

According to the record, 34,966 dozen/qtr Pakistan-made foreign liquor and 40,630 dozen/qtr beer were sold at 11 wine shops of Clifton and Defence in the last three months. The additional advocate general submitted that 59 wine shops of the 75 in Karachi were functional.

He submitted that 24 wine shops were located in the South district, whereas 11 were in DHA and Clifton.

The court asked the excise and taxation director general about the spread of liquor shops in the province especially in Karachi South district where 24 licences were granted even though as per the NADRA and election commission records, no more than 59,000 non-Muslims resided there.

The court directed the director general to initiate the process of recalling the licences granted to liquor shops in violation of the law. The court ordered that notices should be issued to the liquor shops throughout the province within two days and sought a compliance report by October 26.