The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave its nod to Chandigarh administration’s notification denotifying some highways to allow continued sale of liquor from vends within 500 metres of the roads. The apex court’s refusal to set aside the notification may lead other states to denotify highways criss-crossing the cities to allow liquor vends to continue operating.
A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar and comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, while rejecting the appeal filed by an NGO against a Punjab and Haryana High Court order upholding the denotification done by Chandigarh administration, said it will pass a detailed order.
“The Special Leave Petition is dismissed. We will clarify whether the order passed by the High Court is violative of earlier order of apex court,” the bench said.
The plea was filed in the High Court by the NGO, Arrive Safe Society of Chandigarh, challenging a notification by the administration denotifying some state highways and converting them into district roads to allow continued sale of liquor, despite the apex court judgment.
So long the road is a highway, it is covered by the earlier order of apex court irrespective of where it goes, the bench said. “The notification said that road will be denotified within the limit of city and it does not say that the liquor vends will be regularised,” it said.
The bench, however, clarified that it will see whether the action of Chandigarh administration to denotify the highways was legitimately done or not.
“If the intention was to denotify the highways where liquor vends are there, they could have extended it to all such roads where vends are located. But they have not done that and confined it to within the city areas. 15 vends are located on roads which are not denotified, they have made classifications,” the apex court said, adding that the liquor vends are already governed by the rules.
The apex court also dismissed interlocutory applications (IAs) of various individuals, hotels, clubs and companies and liquor vendors’ associations seeking relief from the earlier order of the apex court saying these are not maintainable.
It, however, said the IAs filed by state governments will be entertained by the apex court and will be taken up on Wednesday. The apex court had on July 4 said the idea behind its verdict banning the sale of liquor along the highways was that a driver should not be under the influence of liquor at places where there is high-speed traffic.
It had in December last year had banned sale of liquor within 500 metres of state and national highways across the nation from April one this year.
The NGO, in its plea, has alleged that in a bid to circumvent the order, the Chandigarh administration denotified the state highways to allow the sale of liquor even after March 31. The High Court refused to quash the notification.
It was contended that by denotifying state highways and renaming them as major district roads, the Chandigarh administration had made a mockery of the Supreme Court order setting out the distance criteria.
On March 31, the apex court had said that liquor vends within 500 metres of national and state highways will have to shut down from April 1. It had exempted the hill states of Sikkim, Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh and areas having a population of up to 20,000.
The court had ordered a ban on all liquor shops along the national as well as the state highways and made it clear that licences of existing shops will not be renewed after March 31.