In a significant decision, Supreme Court today ordered closure of all liqour shops along National and state highways stressing on the need to improve road safety and curb menace of drunken driving.
A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur also ruled that there should not be any liqour shops 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.
The court had on Wednesday itself while reserving verdict said that it would order shutting of all liquor vends on national and state highways for the safety and security of commuters who get “distracted” after seeing the shops, causing accidents.
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.
“We would not like any vend on national highways, state highways, advertisements, or signage about the availability of liquor shops. We will direct all highway authorities to remove all sign boards. It should be absolutely free from any distraction or attractions. It should not be visible. Visibility is the first temptation,” Justice Thakur had said.
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.
“You can start a door delivery of liquor,” the bench told counsel for Jammu and Kashmir who argued if the vends are away from the highway, people would have problems accessing them due to the terrains.
Punjab government counsel also faced the court’s ire for defending the liquor lobby’s interest. “You are acting like a mouthpiece for the liquor lobby by defending the policy,” the bench told the advocate who pleaded the ban should be made effective from April 1, 2017 to avoid a revenue loss of `1,000 crore to the exchequer.
Read the Judgment here.
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