The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold its 2016 order banning the sale of liquor within 500 metres of highways has led to several outlets remaining closed across the country, even as speculation about the order’s details circulated. On Friday, the Supreme Court had issued a clarification, where the bench exempted Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Sikkim, and places with a population of less than 20,000 from the rule. These states can have liquor shops at a radius of 220 metres from highways.
The ban which extends to hotels, bars and restaurants has triggered major concerns about unemployment. The state administrations of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Chandigarh have reportedly begun denotifying state highways to circumvent the ruling, an excise official told The Times of India.
The 2016 verdict followed a plea that had been filed saying that nearly 1.42 lakh people died in road accidents every year, and that drunk driving was a major cause. “Drunk driving is a potent cause of fatalities and injuries in road accidents. The Constitution preserves and protects right to life as an over-arching constitutional value,” the bench had said.
Here’s a look at what this means across the country:
Maharashtra’s Excise Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule on Sunday said the government will lose Rs 7,000 crore as a result of the ban on liquor sale along the highways, PTI reported. The Bharatiya Janata Party government is also trying to denotify state highways in Mumbai, Pune and other major cities to avoid complying with the apex court’s ban, The Times of India reported.
The process of denotification has begun in Jalgaon.
Telangana and Andhra Pradesh
The governments of the two states said the Supreme Court’s modification of its order allowed for liquor shops along the highways in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to operate until September 30 and June 30, respectively in both states, The Indian Express reported.
“We have closed the bars and pubs located on the highways. Restaurants on highways cannot serve liquor and they have to close their bars. The liquor shops will function till June 30, after which we will conduct auctions based on the new guidelines,’’ Andhra Pradesh Excise Minister Kollu Ravindra said.
The Kerala government forced around 1,700 stores to shut down in the state. State-run liquor retailers, Bevco and Consumerfed, were also hit by the ban as 148 of their 311 stores will have to be relocated. “The resistance from locals in places identified for relocation has delayed the process of shutting down the stores,” The Indian Express quoted Kerala Excise Minister G Sudhakaran as saying.
The state said West Bengal’s 1,800 “off-shops” along the highways bring in an annual average of Rs 1,000 crore in revenue, The Indian Express reported.
Alcohol outlets in the state have until June 30 to comply with the ruling as their licences are valid till June 30. A totla of 5,950 stores of the 10,149 existing establishments currently fall under the 500 metre ban radius ban, The Indian Express reported.
The local administration is expected to lose a revenue of Rs 100 crore as most of its 478 bars in hotels and restaurants are located close to the highways.
The state’s excise department had listed 3,178 establishments along the highways. However, after the Supreme Court’s clarification exempting Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Sikkim, and places having populations of less than 20,000, officials will have to reassess the stores.
Store owners have accused the government of not making a proper case for the state’s liquor industry.
The dry state of Gujarat has directed its prohibition department to “temporarily” shut shops under the purview of the order.