The Madras High Court on Friday asked the government to state within two weeks the measures taken to curb drunk driving.
The First Bench of Chief Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam also directed the government pleader to file a detailed counter affidavit, after hearing a public interest litigation petition filed by A. Narayanan of Virugambakkam.
In his petition filed in 2010, Mr. Narayanan, the trustee of Sevaman Trust and Editor and Publisher of Paadam, a Tamil monthly magazine, sought a direction to authorities, including Police and Transport departments, to ensure that those who visited TASMAC shops and bars were prevented from taking the wheel after drinking.
He sought a direction to the State to procure breath analysers and deploy them through police personnel in front of each liquor bar, pub, permit room, club and parlours as well as at important road junctions throughout the State.
The petitioner sought exclusive mobile courts attached with ‘Alcohol in Blood analyser laboratories’ in all the districts so as to swiftly prosecute the violators.
Mr. Narayanan submitted that the police periodically released press statements on the booking of persons for drunk driving.
Occasional checks were being done. These were just statistics for the purpose of record. The number of licences cancelled, suspended and action taken against drunk drivers was not adequate and commensurate with the number of violations.
Plea against new liquor shops
The complainant had filed another miscellaneous petition seeking an interim injunction restraining the State government from opening newly proposed liquor shops.
When the both petitions came up for hearing on Friday before the Bench, Mr. Naryanan appeared as a party-in-person and argued the case. He submitted that his petition had been pending for two years even without receiving a reply from the government. Since, filing of the petition, he said, “…about 32,000 people died in road accidents and 60 per cent of the deaths were due to drunk driving. On an average 175 accidents occur and around 43 people die in such accidents per day in the State...”
He submitted that the government’s policy note as well as an order stated that only persons above the age of 21 could be sold or served liquor. However, it was common to see juveniles and underage youth drinking in bars and driving away rashly. The government was constitutionally obliged to take effective preventive measures to totally eliminate drunk driving.
The Judges said while there could not be a blanket ban imposed on selling liquor in the State, the menace of drunk driving had to be curbed.