IN A relief to operators of liquor vends and bars in cities, the Supreme Court on Tuesday found nothing objectionable in the Chandigarh administration’s decision to denotify local and state highways as district roads. The Chandigarh move had widely been interpreted as a bid to circumvent the apex court’s order of December 2016 banning liquor vends and bars within 500m of highways to curb drunk driving. In March, the top court modified the distance to 220m in towns with a population of below 20,000.
Hearing a petition challenging the Union Territory’s move to reclassify roads, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar said, “We could have appreciated if (denotified) roads was in the nature of a highway where there is fast-moving traffic. All roads notified are in (the) city where there is no fast-moving traffic.”
CJI Khehar said, “Roads within the city are very different from those outside the city. That is a genuine classification.” The bench was hearing a plea by Arrive Safe Society, a Chandigarh-based NGO, which had approached the Supreme Court against a Punjab and Haryana High Court order dismissing its petition that challenged the denotification order.
The Supreme Court also clarified that the object of its order banning liquor sales on highways was to ensure that people are not under the influence of intoxicating substances while driving fast.
“Why court gave the order is because when you are in fast-moving traffic, you should not be under the influence of anything… the purpose was to ensure that people don’t stop in the way, suppose when they are driving from Delhi to Agra, have a drink and then drive,” said CJI Khehar.