Liquor bottles lined up for sale in Mizoram

Aizawl: Days after the Gauhati High Court smashed the “prolonged dry days” order, Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga on Thursday said the state government is firm on imposing total prohibition in Mizoram to fulfill a pre-poll promise of Mizo National Front (MNF), a regional party he headed.

“Unprecedented thing has occurred beyond our capacity over sales of liquor. The dirt left behind by the previous government is so disturbing that the entire state has been in dismay,” Zoramthanga said while addressing a function marking the celebration of the new ministry at Thentlang village in central Mizoram’s Serchhip district on Thursday.

The former rebel leader said a new legislation to replace the existing Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition & Control) Act, 2014 will be passed by the end of March. “You will see that by March 31, a legislation, imposing prohibition on liquor sale, has already been in place,” he said.

While citing his helplessness over the court’s order, Zoramthanga also expressed his apology to the people and churches that liquor has to be sold again owing to the high court’s order.

The three-time Mizoram chief minister also told party workers that the state government is taking massive effort to improve education and health service.

As a prelude to prohibition, the state cabinet headed by CM Zoramthanga had on December 18 declared dry days from December 21 to January 14, which was again extended till March 10 in another council of minister meeting on January 10.

However, the order of the state government banning sales of liquor was put aside by the Aizawl bench of Gauhati High court on Tuesday following petitions submitted by liquor vendors and owners of bonded warehouses.

The sitting judge, Justice Michael Zothankhuma, found the orders of the Commissioner of Excise and Narcotics department declaring the “dry days” for an extended period as “arbitrary” and ordered the state government to allow warehouse dealers to import liquor and the vendors to sell branded liquor as per the validity of their licence.

The licence of vendors and warehouse dealers expires on March 31.

Following the high court order, more than 30 privately-run wine shops began opening their store from Thursday after being closed for over a month.

When this correspondent paid a visit, some liquor shops in the state capital were crowded with customers.

A customer, who refused to be mentioned, said he strongly welcomed the high court verdict and was against prohibition because many drinkers will be forced to consume spurious liquor like it was during total prohibition period.

Though welcoming the high court decision, a warehouse dealer said he would not be in a position to phase out his stock within such limited period as his licence will expire on March 31.

He expressed desire that the state government should arrange proper exit protocol in order to dispose of their stock.

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