While the ban on alcohol shops close to highways has not been lifted, the modified norms will certainly send a sigh of relief across the liquor traders in the state.
Reconsidering the pleas submitted by liquor trading associations across the country, a Bench consisting of Chief Justice JS Khehar, DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao have made the following modifications to the ban:
- Towns that have a population of less than 20,000, the earlier distance that alcohol shops had to maintain of 500m from State and National Highways is modified to 220m.
- Due to their natural geography, Sikkim and Meghalaya are exempted from the ban.
- Liquor licenses of alcohol shops that according to the ban are close to the highways, will cease to exist from April 1, 2017. However, the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are allowed an extension of time to September 31, since their excise year begins from October 1.
- Also the Bench noted that the ban will not only be limited to “shops” selling liquor, but any establishment selling liquor within the prohibited distance, whether bar, restaurant or shop.
The Court, in its previous order, had ordered the ban on the alcohol shops and also making it clear that after March 31 this year, the licences of the existing shops will not be renewed.
A set of PILs (Public Interest Litigations) that alleged the correlation of alcohol shops selling liquor along the highways being the major contributing factor to drunk driving, which claim high casualties every year had seen the Court pass this judgement.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, in an earlier hearing had mentioned that, “the figure of 500 meters treats unequals as equals. It is my humble submission that Article 142 cannot be used in this respect.”
Making the case for the liquor businesses, he stated that this would impact a lot of livelihoods and instead of having the ban specifically of 500m from the State and National highways a comprehensive exercise could be conducted to identify accident prone etc.
The order had several states opposing the earlier order. Goa stated that respecting the 500-meter rule would be very difficult on the state due to its geographical limits.
Even with the modifications that have been made to the earlier order, the Court has refused to reconsider calling off the order, which all the liquor business and other stakeholders will have to respect.