SC: bars, pubs not exempted from highway liquor ban

Directs govts to stop issuing licences

SC: bars, pubs not exempted from highway liquor ban
Bars and pubs are also covered under the ban on liquor outlets along highways, the Supreme Court said on Friday. Some legal experts had interpreted a recent order of the court to mean the ban applied only to retail liquor stores. A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar relaxed its directives for city, town and municipal areas with a population of less than 20,000, saying they could have liquor vends 220 metres from the highways. For other areas, the buffer is 500 metres.

On December 15, 2016, the court had ordered the closure of all liquor shops within 500 metres of national and state highways from April 1.

‘Cease and desist’
It had also directed governments to “cease and desist” from issuing excise licences after March 31. The bench, also comprising Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice L Nageswara Rao, said allowing bars and restaurants to serve alcohol would defeat the very purpose of the order, which is to curb drunken driving on the highways.

2 states exempted
The court exempted Sikkim and Meghalaya from the directive. About 90% of liquor shops were to be closed there as the states’ topography provides no room for relocation. With its Friday order, the court overruled Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s legal opinion to the Kerala government that the direction does not apply to bars and restaurants serving alcohol.

The court also said current licencees could operate till September 30 since not all states had granted excise licences from April 1 to March 30. Telangana had issued licences in November 2016, less than a month before the Supreme Court order was passed. Tamil Nadu got no relaxation either. It had sought extension of licences till September 30. The court said liquor shops there are run by the government, and the state had agreed to comply with the April 1 deadline.

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