Apex Court relaxes ruling on sale of liquor on highways for Andaman, Arunachal

Port Blair/New Delhi
12 Jul 2017

The Supreme Court  on Wednesday granted exemption to Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Arunachal Pradesh in north-east from its ban on sale of liquor within 500 metres of National and State Highways. Noting that liquor sale was source of significant revenue generation for the two territories and geographical constraints, the Apex Court bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar held that they “deserved parity” with Sikkim and Meghalaya, two other states which enjoy full exemption from the court's ban on sale of liquor within 500 metres of National and State Highways.
In further relief, the Court, taking note of the fact that excise license period varies in different States and extended beyond April 1, 2017, extended the deadline for phasing out the licences to September 30, 2017.  “The Ld. Counsel appearing for Arunachal Pradesh states that the terrain in the state is similar to that of Sikkim and Meghalaya and, accordingly, the state of Arunachal Pradesh deserves the parity given to Sikkim and Meghalaya in the order passed by this court on March 31. 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 the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and relaxed the 500-metre cap in line with its March 31 order.
On March 31, the north-eastern States of Sikkim and Meghalaya got a full exemption from the 500-m no-liquor zone ban after the court took into consideration their hilly terrain and also the fact that 82% of its area was forest land and over 90% of its liquor shops would be closed if the ban was imposed strictly in its original form. The State argued that it had lost 50% of its revenue following the December 15, 2016 ban, earmarking 500 metres alongside highways as liquor-free zones. The State said 80% of its roads are national highways.
The court, however, denied Tamil Nadu any relief. It dismissed the State's request to reduce the no-liquor zone from 500 m to 100 m and held that the ban would start from April 1 itself.  The ban was ordered to prevent  drunk driving, one of the major killers plaguing Indian roads.