The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a ban on liquor shops on all national and state highways across the country. A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur directed the Central and state government to cease from issuing new licenses. It said licenses of existing shops will not be renewed after 31st March, 2017.
The court also ordered not a single liquor shop should be seen from highways and no shops should be allowed at least within a radius of 500 metres.
The SC, last week expressed concern over 1.5 lakh fatalities every year in road accidents, it said this directed to close the liquor shops on national and state highways.
A bench of CJI TS Thakur and Justices DY Chandrachud and LN Rao said on last Wednesday that it would stop drunk driving on highways.
An NGO called ‘Arrive Safe’ filed a litigation which said almost 1.42 lakh people die every year in road accidents many of which are caused by drunk driving.
The court while reserving verdict on December 7 on a batch of pleas seeking a direction to amend excise laws to ensure that no liquor is sold alongside highways, directed the Punjab government for seeking relaxation and allowing liquor shops near highways if they are “elevated” ones and the vend are under or near it.
The bench said, “Look at the number of licenses you (Punjab) have given. Because the liquor lobby is so powerful, everyone is happy. The excise department is happy, the excise minister is happy and the state government is also happy that they are making money. If a person dies due to this, you give Rs one or 1.5 lakh. That is it. You should take a stand which is helpful for the society.”
The apex court alleged revenue generation cannot be a valid reason for a state or a Union territory to allow the highway liquor shops and give license for it on highways and the authorities should accept the positive step to remove the hazard.
Many pleas have been filed on the particular issue including one which referred a 2015 report of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways which said last year almost five lakh accidents took place in India killing 1,46,000 people and injured many others.
The court also slammed the Centre for not doing anything positive for the last 10 years. It said in spite of the recommendations of a committee to ban liquor shops on the highways, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were sticking to their existing excise policies under which one could issue a license for liquor shops along the highways.