From April 1, national and state highways run liquor free by Supreme Court order

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From April 1, liquor shops near national and state highways banned
From April 1, liquor shops near national and state highways banned

New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Friday said hotels and restaurants falling within 500 metres on either side of the national and state highways cannot serve liquor.

The top court by its December 15, 2016 order had banned the liquor shops within 500 metres on the either side of the national and state highways.

Refusing to issue a clarification that the December 15 judgment applied only to liquor shops and not to hotels and restaurants, the bench of Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Justice L. Nageswara Rao, said no such relaxation could be made that would defeat the object of preventing drunken driving.

"Since the object of the (December 15) direction is to prevent drunken driving, no such relaxation can be made which would defeat the object which is sought to be achieved. Consequently, the directions issued by this court cannot be read down, as suggested. The directions shall be read as they stand," said Justice Chandrachud pronouncing the order.

However, the court relaxed the ban on the location of liquor shops by reducing it to 220 metres in respect of municipal/local bodies with 20,000 or less population falling along the highways.

"In the case of areas comprised in local bodies with a population of 20,000 people or less, the distance of 500 metres shall stand reduced to 220 metres," the court said in its order.

Besides, the top court exempted Sikkim and Meghalaya from the ban order altogether.

Noting the 82 per cent forest cover in Sikkim and the peculiar hilly terrain in Meghalaya, the court said, "We are of the view that insofar as the states of Meghalaya and Sikkim are concerned, it would suffice if the two states are exempted only from the application of the 500 metre distance..."

However, Himachal Pradesh has been brought in the ban limit of 220 metres as applicable to local bodies adjoining the highways with 20,000 or less population.

"We are of the view that the exemption which has been granted earlier in respect of areas falling under local bodies with a population of 20,000 will sufficiently protect the interests" of Himachal Pradesh and "no further relaxation is granted over and above what has already been stated in that regard," the order said.

The court declined to provide any relief to Tamil Nadu which had sought more time to implement the December 15, 2016 order.

Rejecting the request for the extension of time by Tamil Nadu, the order said that in the state (Tamil Nadu) the liquor vends are operated by state-owned Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) and the April 1, 2017, deadline was fixed on its request only.

Referring to the varying excise years in different states including in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the court said that in the case of licenses which were renewed prior to its December 15 order and they expire on or after April 1, 2017, "the existing licence shall continue until the term of the licence expires but in any event not later than 30 September 2017".

"In other words, no licence shall either be granted or renewed or shall remain in operation in violation of the direction of this court beyond September 30, 2017," the order said fixing September 30 as a deadline.

The top court order on Friday came on a batch of applications filed by some state governments and the owners of hotels and restaurants located on the highways seeking modification of the December 15, 2016 order.