SC dilutes booze sale ban along highways within municipal limits

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HIGHLIGHTS

  • States can now denotify highways passing through municipal limits to allow liquor vends to resume business
  • The court recognised that there was no attempt to revive vends except those in city limits

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court paved the way on Tuesday for states to denotify highways passing through municipal limits to allow liquor vends to resume business. A bench of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justices DY Chandrachud and LN Rao dismissed a petition challenging a March 30 order of the Punjab and Haryana high court, which had upheld the Chandigarh administration’s decision to denotify stretches of highways passing through the city so as to permit liquor vends to resume sale.

The court recognised that there was no attempt to revive vends except those in city limits. The SC bench had banned liquor vends within 500 metres of national and state highways, an order which came into effect on April 1. The bench had brushed aside vociferous protests by senior advocate CA Sundaram, who had said major five star hotels in Delhi would be banned from serving liquor to guests as these hotels were on both sides of national highways criss-crossing the capital.

However, on Tuesday, the bench came around and said it never meant to ban the sale of liquor on roads passing through cities. “What was intended to be directed by the judgment was so long as the road remains a highway, it gets covered by the judgment (banning liquor vends within 500 metres of it). If it is no longer a highway, the order will not apply,” the bench said. “If a state has the authority to denotify a highway to municipal road, then we will test whether it is doing so to violate the SC order. If they had denotified highways outside city limits, then we would have taken umbrage. But they have done so within city limits,” the bench said, observing that it would dismiss the appeal against the HC order while delivering the detailed judgment.
On March 30, the Punjab and Haryana HC had upheld the Chandigarh administration’s decision to denotify highways within city limits. Of the 99 liquor vends affected by the SC order in Chandigarh, the denotification of highways allowed 77 to step around the ban and resume business.

 

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