The indication from the court may spell future relief to hotels and pubs, especially in the metros, which were forced to shut down following the ban.
The relief is palpable among these establishments as the court had in March 2017 clarified that the ban was not restricted to just liquor shops alongside the highways but also to other larger establishments, including pubs and hotels.
The court had said that exempting establishments other than “shops involved in sale of liquor” — which include bar-attached hotels, wine and beer parlours dotting highways — would amount to dilution of its December 15 judgment’s objective to prevent drunk driving, one of the major killers plaguing Indian roads.
“The pernicious nature of the sale of liquor along the National and State highways cannot be ignored. Drunken driving is a potent source of fatalities and injuries in road accidents,” the clarification order had observed.
The court said its duty to protect public health and safety clearly overrides the interests of liquor traders.
The March 2017 clarification order had come after the court heard 68 applications for modification of the December judgment.
The December verdict had directed States and Union Territories to stop the grant of licences to establishments located within 500 metres of national and State highways. April 1, 2017 was fixed as the date for phasing out existing liquor licences.
The clarification had run completely counter to a legal opinion given recently by former Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi to the Kerala government that the December 15 judgment’s ambit was confined to only retail liquor outlets and not bigger establishments like bar-at- tached hotels and wine-beer parlours along highways in the State.
The ban had impacted livelihoods and raised practical issues which challenged the court’s stand that the blanket prohibition was sourced by the judiciary’s “overarching concern for public health”.
The Tamil Nadu government had warned the court that its “one-size-fits-for-all” approach would spell more harm than good.
"Ninety percent of the liquor vends are in the city and not in some god-forsaken place outside the city limits. State highways crisscross every small town and district headquarters in my State. Towns have developed rapidly. Small roads with shops on both sides form State highways due to the rapid rise in urbanisation," Tamil Nadu and Telangana governments had submitted then.
Source: The Hindu