Liqour Shops On Highways: SC Says Need To Balance Road Safety And Vendors Rights

Liqour Shops On Highways: SC Says Need To Balance Road Safety And Vendors Rights

After hearing petitions challenging ban on liqour vends within 500 metres of state and national highways for one-and-half hours,  Supreme Court today said it will continue hearing tomorrow and pass an order.

"We will not shut you out. We will hear you tomorrow also. We are giving ourselves some time. We need to take a conscious decision. We want to ponder if we should do it and how to go about it etc" Chief Justice J S Khehar heading a bench also comprising of justices L Nageswara Rao and D Y Chandrachud said.

AG Mukul Rohatgi, advocates Rajeev Dhawan and Abhishek Singhvi appearing for various states and liqour vendors said earlier order was not data or research based.

"Rest assured we do not want to be any impediment in your earning revenue. But drunken driving...a person dying is dead and gone. Imagine about his family. We are not against revenue earning by you. But suggest some alternative. We want to balance it"

The court was hearing petitions filed by Kerala, Tamil Nadu Punjab and Telangana and All Assam Indian Made Foreign Liquors Retailers' Association seeking modification of the apex court’s December 15 orderdirecting closure of all liquor vends operating within 500 metres of state and national highways holding them as a prime reason for fatalities caused by drunken driving.



Attorney General Rohatgi who appeared for two of the states had sought urgent hearing of the pleas as the judgement, order was to come into effect from April 1 .State governments were barred from renewing the licenses of the existing outlets on highways after March 31.

The verdict had come on a PIL alleging that nearly 1.42 lakh people died per year in road mishaps and that the drunken driving is a major contributor.
Attorney General, whose opinion has been sought by Kerala on the judgement, had opined that the order banning liquor vends on state and national highways does not apply to bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. The state governments had strongly opposed the ban citing huge loss of revenue.

The order was passed by the SC on a PIL filed by "Arrive Safe" NGO which said nearly 1.42 lakh people died annually on roads in India because of accidents, drunken driving being a major contributor to this high toll of human lives.The apex court stressed on the need to improve road safety and curb menace of drunken driving.

A bench headed by then Chief Justice T S Thakur also ruled that there should not be any liqour vends within 500 metres of such highways and they should also be not visible from such roads.

The bench also restrained authorities from issuing new licenses.
Chief Secretaries of each state has been asked to chalk out the ban enforcement plan in consultation with excise and municipal officials of each state.

A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur had come down heavily on states for not heeding the Centre’s advice to not give licences to the vends on the highways. Instead, the states have increased the number of licences, the bench pointed out. The first communiqué was released in 2007, since then the Centre has been sending notices to the states.

The court was hearing petitions challenging various high court verdicts, which disapproved the sale of liquor on highways. The courts have held that the shops be located at a distance from where they are neither visible nor accessible to the commuters.