Supreme Court's ruling on liquor ban on highways: Thanks to court, drunks can now cry havoc or cause it

If the Supreme Court passes a law and then the government agencies find a way to navigate it, isn't that a mockery of the judicial process? Does it also not so completely undermine the highest court in the land and place the judiciary and the executive in confrontation?

To that twist, we then have the Supreme Court itself agreeing that highways can be denotified and made into city roads so that this ban no longer applies to them.

The premise for this is that some of these roads ribbon right through the city and are scarcely major arteries. If that be so, shouldn't there have been a proper yardstick at the very beginning indicating which portions of which roads are exempt from the ban on sale of liquor in the 500 metre zone on highways. This assessment should have been based on the grounds that they shouldn't have been on the listed highways in the first place.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The Supreme Court, in its wisdom, says the idea behind the ban is to stop people speeding under the influence of alcohol and to save lives. The justification given for the denotification is that in bumper to bumper traffic where vehicles inch along on city roads, the question of speeding becomes ludicrous. Ergo, open up happy hour.

By that token, nearly as many lives are lost on the strips that run through the urban enclaves as on the highways. Most of our cities become open air bedrooms at night for thousands. Most inebriated drivers careen through these very streets at night, smug in their social and political connections to come out of a pub, get behind a wheel and scythe through human life or end up wrapped around an electric pole. More pedestrians are likely to stumble along in the late hours, smashed out of their minds and volunteer to become road kill.

Even if we go by the statistics of the rich and powerful high profile driving recklessly on what is soon going to be denotified roads this is where most of them are involved in gruesome accidents. You do not need a list of the famous who have used their cars as weapons of mass destruction… smack, right dab in the city, not on the highway. Every one of them.

Delhi(City), Chennai, Jaipur, Bengaluru, Mumbai dubiously lead the fray. As high as 30 percent of motorbike riders involved in accidents have been found to be under the influence. Motorised rickshaws and two-wheelers used for delivery add to the hazard but now they can all freely drink and cry havoc or cause it.

The travesty gets worse. Some of these, now to be conveniently denotified roads, are close to schools, hospitals and clinics. With around 1,400 accidents occurring on our roads every day and 400 on average dying every 24 hours the general eagerness to denotify roads is unedifying and the reasons given spurious.

Although, the urban deaths are at least 5 percent less than rural, the label of rural has changed dramatically in recent years and vast stretches of highways are now urban in nature with schoolchildren and cyclists at the mercy of multiple vehicles. The traffic as one passes thousands of villages in dense and should, by the current logic be demarcated as rural 'cityroads' or whatever absurd nomenclature fits.

According to the Ministry of Rural Development tractors and other articulated vehicles account for the majority of accidents on the national highways usually near high density areas as opposed to relatively empty quarters. For all practical purposes what with the villages of the last century now becoming townships and the national highway construction way behind the curve, these are now automatically town streets. try speeding on them.

None of these legal and executive decisions have much to do with saving lives. It is more a saving of the bottom line and ensuring that the state coffers are kept filled. Why can't we be a little more honest about all this and accept that these escape routes are being sought purely to safeguard business interests and the liquor trade.

As for the absence of any parameters in downgrading the highways the delusion that our network, both urban and rural, will be somewhat safer is laughable. Truck and bus drivers and other long haul drivers will have no problem with a bottle in a brown paper bag and a little liquid courage in their bellies. Haven't you heard of 'pack to go…" what is five hundred metres to pick up stock. A ten minute stop.

Updated Date: Jul 05, 2017 12:59 PM

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