Starting April 1, all liquor shops within 500 metres of national and state highways across the country will have to shut down following an order passed by the Supreme Court on Friday. The apex court ruled that there should be no liquor vendors within 500 metres of highways across India. The Court, however, exempted Sikkim, Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh and also areas with a population of up to 22,000 people from the ban.
A bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar also clarified that bars, pubs and restaurants that serve liquor would come under the purview of the SC order. The bench was hearing a plea by liquor vendors’ associations from several states which sought a modification of the apex court’s December 2016 verdict that had mainly targeted liquor vendors that sell, and not serve, liquor.
The SC also modified the 500-metre cap rule for the state of Himachal Pradesh and areas along the highways with a population of 22,000 people. The bench said liquor shops can be set up at a distance of 22 metres from the national and state highways.
“The objective is to check drunken driving and so there is no dilution of the original order passed by this court. Drunken driving as the objective is a major cause of road accidents in the country,” the bench stated.
The court also made it clear that the licenses of liquor shops would not be renewed after March 31 across the country and that they would have to relocate. However, it added that the licenses which were given before December 15, 2016, would be valid till September 30 in Telangana and till June 30 in Andhra Pradesh.
Supreme Court order of December 15, 2016
The SC, on December 15 last year, had ordered that all establishments, which sell liquor within 500 metres of national and state highways across the country, would have to shut shop and relocate. It also ordered the removal of all liquor banners and advertisements on highways and said the shops must not be visible from the national and state highways.
The court was hearing a petition filed by 46-year-old Harman Singh Sandhu, who was bound to a wheelchair after he met with a road accident around 20 years ago. Sandhu stated in the petition that he wanted to make roads safer for the citizens. A PIL had revealed that almost 1.42 lakh people died due to road accidents in 2015 alone with around 400 deaths every day.
The court had reportedly relaxed the rules in Telangana and Maharashtra previously because the excise year of those states was yet to end. But the bench said on Friday that the two states would not be exempted from the order.
Effect of the SC order
The apex court’s order came as a shock to owners of pubs, bars and restaurants who have been forced to end operations. Thousands of liquor shops across the country will have to shut shop due to the SC order.
According to the Hindustan Times, at least 34 bars and pubs in Gurgaon’s DLF Cyber-Hub along the National Highway 48 and around 143 across the city will have to close down and are likely to lose their liquor licenses from April 1. Several five-star facilities like Oberoi, Trident, Hotel Leela, Westin and Crowne Plaza also come under the red-zone. The liquor shop owners in Haryana are in panic since the estimated losses could amount to Rs 70 crore.
The SC order could effect around 8,000 establishments in Maharashtra. In Nashik, around 700 liquor shops, bars and permit rooms within 500 metres from the highways will have to close doors from Saturday. There are around 1,100 liquor shops, permit rooms and bars in Nashik, 60-70 percent of which are located within 500 metres of the state and national highways.