Altering its August 9 order for closure of all wine shops and bars situated within 500 meters of education and religious institutions in Guwahati city, the high court on Friday ordered that shops with existing licenses issued on or before March 13, 2000, can re-open their business with immediate effect.
The order comes as a relief for over 120 bars and wine shops in the capital city.
There are over 400 wine shops and bars in Guwahati.
On whether the closure orders for those with licenses issued after March 13, 2000, should continue or not, the high court said that it would first have the views of the high-powered committee, which has been asked to submit a report on September 9.
The court, at the same time, would continue to monitor the functioning of the committee.
The high court, through an order, also asked the police commissioner and state home secretary to inform the court about the steps the government proposes to take against the excise department officials prima facie responsible for violation of excise laws while granting licenses in Guwahati city.
The court also directed the deputy commissioner, Kamrup (Metro) to complete the exercise of preparing of a list of liquor shops, bars, pubs, lounge bars and hotels along with the names of the officials responsible for granting of such licenses.
Advocate Pranab Pathak, who appeared on behalf of IMFL retailers association -- while explaining the relevance of March 13, 2000 -- said: "In response to six PILs filed between 1999 and 2000 against the mushrooming number of wine shops, the Gauhati high court had issued an order dated March 13, 2000, expressing its reluctance in playing an active role. The court had stated that 'it was the duty of the state government to ensure compliance of the Excise Act henceforth' and those securing licenses before that date should be allowed to operate."