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Centre may seek Presidential Reference on SC’s Highway Liquor Ban

Apoorva Mandhani
5 April 2017 4:02 PM GMT
Centre may seek Presidential Reference on SC’s Highway Liquor Ban
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The Modi Government may seek Presidential reference on the Supreme Court order banning sale of liquor within 500 metres of State and National Highways, including at bars, hotels and restaurants that serve alcohol, from April 1.

The Reference would reportedly be opted for, if a group of State Governments make a request in writing for it. As per a report, the Centre might also consult Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who had earlier appeared for Tamil Nadu government in the issue. He had opined that the court order would not include pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels that serve alcohol under its ambit.

Article 143 of the Indian Constitution confers Advisory Jurisdiction on the Supreme Court of India. Under this provision, the President has the power to address questions to the Supreme Court, which he deems important for public welfare. The Supreme Court “advises” the President by answering the query put before it.  This advice, however, is neither binding on the President, nor is it “law declared by the Supreme Court”, and therefore, is not binding on the subordinate Courts as well.

The reference is being considered to be sought on the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case of State of Tamil Nadu Rep. By Its Secretary Home, Prohibition & Excise Dept & Ors v. K. Balu, which was delivered on December 15 last year, and has since, earned a lot of criticism. The judgment, however, justifies its stand through the alarming statistics on the occurrence of road accidents.

The order was subsequently modified on March 31, to provide the following reliefs:

  1. In the case of areas comprised in local bodies with a population of 20000 people or less, the requirement of maintaining a distance of 500 metres from the outer edge of the highway or service lane, for the location of the liquor shop, shall stand reduced to 220 metres. This was because of the grievance that the entire local area may fall within the prohibited distance. The entire Himachal Pradesh would qualify for this relaxation;

  2. The existing licence shall continue until the term of the licence expires but in any event not later than 30 September 2017;

  3. Meghalaya and Sikkim, on account of their hilly and forest terrains, are exempted from the application of the 500 metre distance requirement.

You may read: SC Order on Highway Liquor Shops Faces Barrage of Criticism by LiveLaw Research Team
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