Apex Court’s latest clarification renders all pending litigations in High Courts infructuous

Report by: 
Port Blair
19 Nov 2017

In further relief for private liquor traders in the city here, the Apex Court has come out with a fresh explanation to its July 11 order recently, which clarified that stretches of highways running through municipal areas were exempted from the December 2016 ban on sale of liquor within 500 metres along national and states highways and said the exemption from ban applies to municipal areas across the country. Hearing a public interest litigation, the Madras High Court had asked the State Government to approach the Supreme Court and seek a clarification whether the exemption as per the July 11 order applies only to Chandigarh. The question popped up in the High Court because the petitioner in the Supreme Court was an NGO based in Chandigarh called Arrive Safe Society.
Responding to the query posed by senior advocate Mukul Rohatagi, the Chief Justice of Supreme Court said orally, “Well, why should the High Court think that? If our order applies for municipal areas in Chandigarh it will apply equally for municipal areas across the country.” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud also unhesitatingly observed that the exemption from ban applies to municipal areas across the country and the purpose of the July 11 order was to prevent interim applications like these. “The phrase ‘other municipal areas’ in the order means municipal areas across the country. The interpretation is that,” Justice Chandrachud observed. The latest clarification by the Apex Court had effectively made infructuous any pending litigation in High Courts on declassification of state or national highways to district roads by State governments or local authorities and stretches of highways running within city limits are now, by default, exempt from the liquor ban. The case has been reserved for orders, as per reports.
The Supreme Court on 11th July 2017 held that the purpose of the direction contained in the order of 15th December 2016 in the case of State of Tamil Nadu and others-versus-K Balu and other is to deal with the sale of liquor along and in proximity of highways properly understood, which provides connectivity between cities, towns and villages. “The order does not prohibit licensed establishments within the Municipal area and the clarification shall govern other municipal areas as well and the Apex Court further in the said judgement held that the said issue was considered for clarification to set at rest any ambiguity and to obviate repeated recourse to interlocutory applications before the Court,” the Apex Court ruled.
Later, disposing of an interlocutory application filed by the Andaman and Nicobar Administration seeking exemption of the distance of 500 mtr of the outer edge of the National/State Highway at par with the State of Sikkim and Meghalaya, the Apex Court on 12th July 2017 allowed the application observing that the factual position pertaining to the geographical location of Andaman and Nicobar Islands has been fully demonstrated and granted exemption of clause 24(v)(iii) of the original judgment to the Andaman and Nicobar Administration whereby the embargo of 500 mtr of the outer edge of National/State Highway service line along with highway was lifted.