The Supreme Court on Wednesday exempted Arunachal Pradesh and Andaman and Nicobar Islands from its order banning liquor vends along highways. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar made the decision considering the exemption granted to hilly states like Sikkim and Meghalaya from its December 15 order, which banned liquor vends within 500 metres of the highways.
Citing the case of Sikkim and Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh had approached the court seeking parity, saying it was a hilly state too. The state’s counsel said its terrain was similar to that of the other two and submitted that 80 per cent of the state was covered by forests with Rs 210 crore of its total revenue of Rs 441.61 crore coming through liquor sales.
The bench also allowed a prayer by Andaman and Nicobar Islands to relax the 500 metre cap. It also gave time to the government of Uttarakhand, which had also sought exemption, to give it more details on the extent of revenue loss due to the ban. A similar petition filed by Kerala also came up for hearing before the bench but the counsel appearing for the state said he would amend the application.
The court had first ordered the ban on liquor vends within 500 metres of highways on December 15, 2016. On March 31, the court clarified that the order would apply to bars, pubs and restaurants too but exempted Sikkim and Meghalaya. It also reduced the mandatory distance for operating the vends in areas with a population of up to 20,000 to 220 metres.
Following the order, many states took to declassifying their highways so that liquor vends and hotels selling liquor could operate.