Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur on Thursday ordered to ban liquor on all National Highways. The apex court in its order said: "all the licenses of liquor shops in and around the National Highways in all the states would be closed."
A week ago, worried about the over 1.5 lakh deaths every year in road mishaps, the Supreme Court said: "it may direct closure of liquor shops on national and state highways across the country, besides removal of signages indicating their location."
The apex court, while listening verdict on a batch of pleas asking a direction to amend excise laws to assure that no liquor is sold on highways, came down heavily on the Punjab government for asking relaxation and permitting liquor shops near highways.
"Look at the number of licences you (Punjab) have given. Because the liquor lobby is so powerful, everyone is happy. The excise department is happy, the excise minister is happy and the state government is also happy that they are making money. If a person dies due to this, you give Rs one or 1.5 lakh. That is it. You should take a stand which is helpful for the society," the bench headed by Thakur had said earlier.
Emphasising the state government of its constitutional obligation to ban liquor sale, the bench, had said, "You are speaking the language of liquor vendors. Is this your endeavour to seek prohibition? Nearly 1.5 lakh people die every year. We are asking you to do something for the general public."
The bench also showed its sadness over the alleged inability of all states to remove liquor shops on highways. This is the main reason for drunk driving and deaths.
It said that "revenue generation cannot be a valid reason for a state or a Union Territory to give licence for liquor shops on highways and the authorities should adopt a positive attitude to remove the menace."
"The Government of India is now saying that the liquor shops (on the national and state highways) should be removed. For the last 10 years, nothing has happened and that is why we have stepped in," the bench said.
BY M. DIVYA SRI