<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a move to curb the menace of drunken driving, the Supreme Court banned liquor shops along national and state highways on Thursday. Stressing the importance and the need to improve road safety, a bench led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur further ordered that no liquor shops can operate or been seen within 500 metres of the highways.Liquor shops that are functional have been allowed to operate till April 1, 2017, however, licenses will be not be renewed or issued post March 31, 2017. The bench has ordered the chief secretaries of all the states to chalk out a plan to enforce the ban in consultation with excise and municipal officials.The SC gave this directive in response to a PIL filed by the NGO Arrive Safe. According to the NGO, around 1.42 lakh people were killed in road accidents, a majority of which were caused by drunk driving. The NGO claimed that the easy availability of liquor along highways was one of the main reasons for the road accidents.While reserving its order on December 7, the apex court had then expressed its concern over the fatalities reported every year in road mishaps, and indicated that it may direct the closure of liquor vends on national and state highways across the nation. The bench had also stated that it would direct the removal of the signages indicating their location. This move, the bench said was for the safety and security of the commuters on the highways who got “distracted” by seeing the shops and causing accidents.Expressed his unhappiness at the states’ inaction to curb the rising number of shops, Justice Thakur said, “We would not like any vends on national highways, state highways, advertisements, or signage about the availability of liquor shops. We will direct all highway authorities to remove all sign boards. It should be absolutely free from any distraction or attractions. It should not be visible. Visibility is the first temptation.”The bench pointed out that instead of curbing the number of shops, states had increased the number of licenses issued. Lashing out at the Central government for not doing anything concrete for the last 10 years, the court said it was forced to “step in.”The ban order came when the apex court was hearing petitions challenging various high court orders that disapproved the sale of liquor on highways. However, not all states were in the favour of the ban. Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab were in the forefront of voicing their opposition to the ban.The court heavily came down on the Punjab government for seeking relaxation and permitting liquor shops near highways if they are “elevated” ones and the vends are under or near it. “Look at the number of licences 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 bench had said.The court also criticised Punjab for defending the interest of the liquor lobby saying, “You are acting like a mouthpiece for the liquor lobby by defending the policy.” The advocate representing Punjab appealed to the bench that also comprised of the CJI along with Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageshwar Rao, that the ban should be made effective from April 1, 2017 to avoid a loss of Rs. 1,000 crore to the exchequer.To the Jammu and Kashmir government, the apex court had said “You can start a door delivery of liquor,” in response to their argument that if the vends are away from the highway, people would have problems accessing them due to the terrains.Dry states (and union territories) in IndiaGujaratBiharNagalandLakhswadeepKerela (partial ban)State Actions against AlcoholRecently deceased Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha shut down 500 liquor stores on May 23, the first day of her fourth term as Chief Minister.In Bihar, the government issued a notification where those consuming alcohol could be jailed for up to seven years and fined by Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh, two days after the Patna High Court quashed its order on banning alcohol consumption.
Read original article: