Bars, pubs, restaurants too come under highway liquor ban: SC

‘Welcome ban’: A liquor bar’s sign peering out of a coconut grove to catch the attention of travellers on the National Highway near Kochi.

‘Welcome ban’: A liquor bar’s sign peering out of a coconut grove to catch the attention of travellers on the National Highway near Kochi.   | Photo Credit: File Photo: K.K. Mustafah

In a significant clarification of its December 15 judgment banning sale of liquor within 500 metres of highways across the country, the Supreme Court has said the ban extends not just to retail liquor outlets but also to bars, pubs and restaurants located on highways.

The court said there was no question of exempting these establishments, as this would be a dilution of its object of preventing drunk driving, which is one of the major killers plaguing Indian roads.

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, who wrote the original judgment on December 15, 2016, clarified in a short order that the object of the court's direction to remove "liquor vends" located within 500 m distance of national, State highways, associated roads and service lanes, was to end drunk driving and no such relaxation ought to be given to establishments like pubs, bars and restaurants.

The clarification runs completely counter to a legal opinion given recently by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to the Kerala government that the December 15 judgment's ambit was confined to only retails liquor outlets and not the bigger establishments along the highways.

The Kerala government had, acting on the advice, gone about to extend the liquor licences of bars, pubs and restaurants located near highways.

The court, however, reduced the no-liquor zone in local areas with a population of 20000 or less from 500 m to 220 m.

In such areas, like that in Himachal Pradesh, liquor can be sold outside 220 m from the highways.

In a further partial relief, the court said that it was found that in some States the annual excise period extended beyond April 1, 2017.

The ban as per the December 15 judgment starts from April 1.

However, Justice Chandrachud pronounced that in these States, the deadline for the ban would extend till September 30, 2017 and not beyond.

In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, where the excise licences are valid till October 1 and June 30, respectively, there will be no ban on highway liquor sales till September 30, 2017.

However, the court denied Tamil Nadu any relief. It dismissed the State's request to reduce the no-liquor zone from 500 m to 100 m, and held that the ban will start from April 1 itself.

However, Northeastern States of Sikkim and Meghalaya got a fill exemption from the 500-m no-liquor zone ban after the court took into consideration their hilly terrain and also the fact that 82% of its area is forest and over 90% of its liquor shops would be closed if the ban is imposed strictly in its original form.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2020 1:18:01 PM |

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