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Court relaxes dry days before civic polls

The court order comes following a petition filed by the Hotel Owners’ Association

Gulf News

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today cancelled a dry day on February 19, the last day of campaigning for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections.

However, the dry days, when no liquor will be sold or served in outlets, will be observed on February 20, the day before elections, February 21, and February 23, the day results will be declared.

The court order comes following a petition filed by the Hotel Owners’ Association after the Maharashtra Excise Department had on January 24 issued a notification declaring dry days from 5pm on February 19, February 20-21 and 23.

A bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice P R Bora said there was no need to impose a ban on sale of liquor two days before the polls, that is on February 19, and also for the entire day on the date of counting, on February 23, since results are declared by afternoon due to the electronic method of counting.

The petition filed by the hotel owners from neighbouring Thane sought the quashing of the notification while terming it “illegal, arbitrary and perverse”. The petition also said the order would affect their business and infringe on their fundamental right to livelihood.

On prohibition of sale of liquor, the Election Commission of India states: “Dry day shall be declared and notified under the relevant State/Union Territory laws as is appropriate during 48 hours, ending with the hours fixed for conclusion of poll.”

It means that no liquor shop, hotel, restaurant, club and other establishments selling/serving liquor, shall be permitted to sell/serve liquor to anyone. However, the petitioners’ lawyer submitted that the four-day ban was imposed under provisions of the Representations of People’s Act, applying only to Lok Sabha and assembly polls and not to civic polls.

PTI reported. “One of the judges, after giving the order, quipped, ‘Anyway these days all political parties have become clever enough to store liquor prior to dry days.’”