In what could later translate into big relief for liquor vendors, bars, pubs and restaurants, the Supreme Court, on Tuesday, said that there was nothing wrong with denotifying highways inside cities.
Thousands of pubs, restaurants and bars across India have been forced to shut down following a Supreme Court order that liquor cannot be served by establishments that operate near national and state highways.
What became problematic is that many arterial roads in cities across the country are actually highways. For example, outlets serving liquor near Bengaluru’s M.G Road or Chennai’s Anna Salai had to shut shop as these roads are highways.
Making a significant observation, the SC said that the purpose of the ban was to ensure that drivers on highways were not under the influence of alcohol.
“There are no such issues when the roads are within the city,” the apex court said, while adding that denotifying such roads may have intelligible differentia.
The Supreme Court was responding to a plea filed by a Chandigarh based NGO – Arrive Safe Society. The NGO alleged that the Chandigarh administration had issued notification to denotify roads to bypass Supreme Court’s order.
Arrive Safe had moved the SC after Punjab and Haryana High Court dismissed its plea by saying that the administration had not violated any law by issuing the said notification.
The apex court said that there was “nothing wrong in states denotifying highways within the city to avoid shutting down of liquor shops and restaurants and hotels serving liquor”.
The court also observed that unlike in highways, the speed of traffic within city limits is much lesser. The court also pointed out that traffic within city limits was different and the purpose of the December 2016 order was to discourage liquor consumption by drivers traversing between two cities.
Though the court has not passed an order on the same, the observation will come as huge relief to thousands of liquor vendors across states.
Many like the Karnataka government have already approached the Centre asking to denotify national highways passing through the limits of urban local bodies. Many states have also tried to denotify parts of the state highways in a bid to save vends functioning along it.