The Supreme Court on Tuesday assured states and other petitioners that it would hear on Wednesday their plea seeking modification of its December 2016 order banning liquor vends within 500 metres of state and national highways across the country from April 1.
The assurance came from the bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar when Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said that over 100 lawyers kept waiting on Monday for an hour with the hope that the bench, comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, would assemble to hear their pleas.
Rohatgi sought urgent hearing of the pleas on Wednesday saying that the judgement, ordering closure of liquor vends alongside highways, will come into effect from April 1.
The CJI then said 84-year-old jurist T R Andhyarujina died on Tuesday and said Justice Chandrachud has gone to Mumbai to take part in the last rites.
“If Justice Chandrachud is here tomorrow, then these matters will be heard at 3 PM. If Justice Chandrachud is not available tomorrow, then I will constitute a separate bench,” Justice Khehar said.
Besides some liquor vendors’ association, states like Kerala, Punjab and Telangana have approached the apex court seeking modification of the December 15, 2016 judgement.
The apex court had ordered a ban on all liquor shops on national as well as state highways across the country and had made clear that licences of existing shops will not be renewed after March 31 next year.
The verdict had come on a PIL alleging that nearly 1.42 lakh people died per year in road mishaps and that the drunken driving is a major contributor.
It had also directed that all signages indicating the presence of liquor vends will be prohibited along national and state highways.
On March 23, the Tamil Nadu government had also moved the top court to extend the time for relocation of retail liquor shops along the highways till the expiry of their licence period i.e upto November 28, 2017.
On January 18, the All Assam Indian Made Foreign Liquors Retailers’ Association had approached the apex court seeking modification of the judgement, saying it virtually banned liquor shops in the state as the definition of state highways in the local statute included all roads.
The Attorney General, whose opinion has been sought by Kerala on the judgement, had opined that the order banning liquor vends on state and national highways does not apply to bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.
The state governments had strongly opposed the ban citing huge loss of revenue.