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State seeks legal opinion, mulls all-party meet on liquor vends

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State seeks legal opinion, mulls all-party meet on liquor vends
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Thiruvananthapuram: The State government has sought legal opinion and plans to call an all-party meeting in the wake of the Supreme Court order banning liquor vends within 500 metres on either side of state and national highways from April 1.

"We have sought legal assistance from the Advocate General on whether an appeal is possible on the issue," Excise Minister G. Sudhakaran told reporters on Monday.

He said the government is also looking into the possibility of sale of liquor through toddy shops.

As many as 207 of the 850 retail liquor outlets owned by the state government have since downed shutters from April 1 in compliance with the Supreme Court directive of December 2016.

Also, 1,749 other places where liquor was served till March 31, including five-star hotels as well as beer, wine and toddy shops, have stopped serving liquor.

With the State assembly session likely to commence on April 17, the Pinarayi Vijayan government is keen to arrive at a political consensus since law and order issue is involved.

Huge crowds have been witnessed at liquor outlets that are still open while people are opposing attempts to open/relocate liquor vends at new places.

The State government is set to unveil its new excise policy after April 12.

Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran on Monday told the media that the situation will seriously affect tourism in the coastal state.

"Apart from tourism, livelihood of thousands of people engaged in liquor trade will be affected. A way has to be found out," said Surendran.

Certain state governments have de-notified state highways in a bid to get around the apex court order. However, the State government is bound to face stiff resistance from the opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front if it resorts to this move vis-a-vis 77 state highways.

Senior Congress leader T.N. Prathapan said the party will oppose tooth and nail any move to circumvent the apex court order.

On Monday, serpentine queues were seen in front of liquor outlets even as authorities decided to extend their working hours by an hour and also set up more counters.

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