To beat liquor ban, Rajasthan denotifies state highways

Henrietta Brewer
April 6, 2017

Although the Court had earlier specified that no liquor vends could be opened around a circumference of 500 metres of national and state highways, it has now relaxed the perimeter rule in less populated areas.

The top court set the April 1 deadline in December barring liquor shops from operating within a range of 500m from India's highways, where 17 traffic accident deaths occur every hour. In Kerala, at least 1,700 shops, including state-owned shops, were shut down to comply with the April 1 order.

The newly elected BJP government in Uttarakhand is finding it hard to come to terms with the recent Supreme Court judgement banning liquor vends within 500 meters on national and state highways.

As hotels and restaurants in most metros, cities and along tourist destinations and road networks are close to highways, such a restriction is going to affect those who like to have their drinks while visiting or staying in such places. "The Supreme Court order would impact about 60 to 70 per cent liquor licences issued in the State", the Association's General Secretary Honnagiri Gowda said.

At the Centre, officials pointed out that denotifying portions of National Highways though not impossible, is not an easy task and the Centre will have to take a call on the issue. The State's Excise Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule has said that alternative ways to increase the revenue would be explored. There are almost 450 liquor shops along the denotified stretches.

Now, the government is toying with idea to rename the state highways as the major district roads.There are 18 state highways in the state with total length of 1,466 km while the length of 60 major district roads is 2,427 km. "The Government is also checking old documents to consider as to which roads in the state could be notified and de-notified", he added.

Based on these four grounds - the Centre's policy, an expert opinion, repetition of Centre's advisory and an indication from Parliament - the court concluded that its decision does not count as judicial overreach.

CEO of Niti Ayog Amitabh Kant has also said that thousands of people will be unemployed due to the ban on sale of liquor around highways.

"Banning liquor on highways is no solution".

The outlook of the government, as well as the Supreme Court, look absolutely pious - they want to stop road catastrophes leading from reckless drunk driving. In Goa, some 30 per cent of liquor outlets have shut down following the Supreme Court order.

Sudhakaran told reporters that this issue will be resolved without any difficulty for the people. While travelling on highways or even modern metropolis, one can spot huge signboards, often LED or neon lit, directing commuters to liquor vends ahead.

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