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Q. Supreme Court on Liquor ban: Comment on Apex Court order of liquor ban on highways.
Apr 10, 2017 Related to : GS Paper 2

Ans :

Introduction-

Recently the Supreme Court of India came of with significant clarification on its previous judgement banning sale of liquor within 500 metres of highways across the country, the Court not only upheld its previous order, but also it has said the ban extends not just to retail liquor outlets but also to bars, pubs and restaurants located on highways. While delivering the order, the court has emphasized that ban on liquor is something outside the idea of commerce and court ruled that it exists solely at the discretion of policymakers without any concomitant fundamental right that other businesses enjoy.

Analysis-

  • According the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 4.96 lakh traffic accidents were reported in the country in 2015 in which 1.77 lakh people were killed while 4.86 lakh people were injured.
  • The Supreme Court has ordered ban on liquors to save the lives from highway accidents. But allowing or banning liquors comes under the domain of executes.  
  • Imposing restrictions on the location of liquor outlets, applying them in a differential manner to vends, hotels and standalone bars is undoubtedly an executive decision not of the judiciary. 
  • There is an argument that the executive will be lax in enforcement, corrupt in licensing and it is also revenue-centric to worry about the social costs of its decisions, hence judiciary has to step in and imposed the restriction. 
  • But the court’s ill considered order is wholly concerned with the availability of liquor to the point that it bans sale of liquor on highway stretches even within city and town limits, where police checks are quite common and it does not touch upon strengthening the enforcement of the law against drunk driving.
  • To serve the real purpose of moral outrage against high fatalities on our roads, and with much less economic cost, the court could have ordered stricter patrolling on highways and regular check-points.

Conclusion-

The court order of banning liquor in the highways is well intended but it is ill considered order. The decision to allow or ban is comes under the domain of executives, not of judiciary. Even banning liquor won’t serve any real purpose, instead of banning it would have pressed for strict enforcement.


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