In a relief to Arunachal Pradesh and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Supreme Court on Wednesday relaxed the 500-metre cap on liquor vends across the national and state highways there.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar relaxed the cap while noting that almost 50 percent of the state revenue for Arunachal Pradesh came from the sale of liquor and 916 shops out of a total of 1,011 shops have been affected by the 500-metre cap.
The counsel appearing for Arunachal Pradesh said that 80 percent of the state was covered by forests and, out of a total revenue of Rs 441.61 crore, Rs 210 crore came from liquor sale.
"The counsel appearing for Arunachal Pradesh states that the terrain in the state is similar to that of states of Sikkim and Meghalaya and, accordingly, the state of Arunachal Pradesh deserves parity given to Sikkim and Meghalaya in the order passed by this court on 31 March. The prayer is allowed," the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L N Rao, said.
Similarly, the bench also allowed the prayer of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and relaxed the 500-metre cap.
The apex court had on 31 March said that liquor vends within 500 metres of national and state highways will have to shut down from 1 April, but had exempted the hill states of Sikkim, Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh and areas having a population up to 20,000.
The apex court also dealt with a similar plea of Uttarakhand which is also seeking a relaxation from the cap. However, the counsel for Uttarakhand could not furnish the data on the revenue loss and was asked to furnish details.
"You provide us (with) the data. We will give you time. We are not agreeable at this stage. You provide the data first," the bench said and posted the matter for hearing next week.
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.
In a significant order on 31 March on the pleas of various states seeking modification of the court's 15 December, 2016 verdict, the apex court had said that the ban on liquor vends along the highways would also be applicable to bars, pubs and restaurants as drunken driving led to fatal road accidents, particularly on highways which have high-speed traffic.
It had modified the 500-metre cap rule for Meghalaya, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and areas alongside highways with a population of up to 20,000, saying they may have liquor vends at a distance of 220 metres from highways.
On the issue of non-extension of liquor vends' licences beyond 31 March, the apex court had said the licences, which were given before 15 December, 2016, will be valid till 30 September in case of Telangana and would be operational till 30 June in Andhra Pradesh.
The court had ordered a ban on all liquor shops along the national and the state highways and made it clear that licences of existing shops will not be renewed after March 31.
The verdict had come on a PIL alleging that nearly 1.42 lakh people died per year in road mishaps and drunken driving was a major contributor.
It had also directed that all signages indicating the presence of liquor vends will be prohibited along the national and state highways.
Updated Date: Jul 13, 2017 09:01 AM