New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday made a significant observation with respect to the ban on liquor vends on highways. The court said that there was nothing wrong in states denotifying highways within the city to avoid shutting down of liquor shops and restaurants and hotels serving liquor. The observation came on a petition challenging a notification by the Chandigarh administration on denotifying state highways to escape liquor ban.
The apex court also adjourned a plea accusing the Punjab government of bypassing its judgement on liqour ban on highways. The court, in its order, said that the purpose was to ban liquor sale on highways. The court said that the idea was to make sure no speeding drivers on highways are under the influence of alcohol.
The Supreme Court’s observation brings huge relief for the states that were denotifying highways to avoid shutting shops within cities.
The recent case in point was that of Karnataka. Hundreds of liquor vends in Bengaluru and elsewhere in Karnataka along highways had shut shops in lieu of the SC order. With four major national highways criss crossing Bengaluru, high-end pubs and bars in the city’s central business district like M G Road, Brigade Road and upmarket Indiranagar and Koramangala were the worst hit.
According to records, Old Madras Road, MG Road and Hosur Road in the heart of the city, where high-end pubs and bars are located, have been tagged as highways, but they are not used as such and are being maintained by the city civic body Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). Earlier, following the Supreme Court order, the Karnataka government had asked the Centre to denotify about 858 km highways passing through the limits of urban local bodies. The state had also denotified parts of the state highways in a bid to save vends functioning along it.
Similarly, states like Punjab and Haryana had also taken a similar route. The Punjab Assembly had amended the Excise Act, 1914 removing hotels, restaurants and clubs from the restrictions on serving of liquor within 500 metres of highways. Highways were also denotified in Chandigarh and Gurugram to avoid shutting down of liquor vends.
Hundreds of kilometres of national and state highways in states like Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and others were also denotified into local, municipal or district roads following the Supreme Court’s order banning sale of alcohol along national and state highways.