States to decide on rural liquor sale: SC

The Supreme Court has asked states to determine whether liquor vends can be permitted in areas under the control of panchayats and local self governments, clarifying that the ban imposed on the sale of alcohol within 500 metres of highways in December 2016 would not be applicable to such areas.

By Our Legal Correspondent
  • Published 28.02.18
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked states to determine whether liquor vends can be permitted in areas under the control of panchayats and local self governments, clarifying that the ban imposed on the sale of alcohol within 500 metres of highways in December 2016 would not be applicable to such areas.

The court referred to its July 11, 2017, order wherein it had made it clear that the ban on the sale of liquor along highways would not be applicable to municipal areas.

That order had said: "The purpose of the directions contained in the order dated 15 December 2016 is to deal with the sale of liquor along and in proximity of highways properly understood which provide connectivity between cities, towns and villages.

"The order does not prohibit licened establishments within municipal areas. This clarification shall govern other municipal areas as well. We have considered it appropriate to issue this clarification to set at rest any ambiguity and to obviate repeated recourse to IAs (intervention applications), before the court."

However, a large number of states and Union territories and private liquor lobbies and bars operating in panchayat areas had again approached the apex court seeking further clarification on whether the exemption would be applicable to their zones as well.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Amitava Roy and D.Y. Chandrachud, in a recent order, has clarified that the ban will not be applicable to the panchayat areas, but left the issue of individual vendors or bars to the states concerned.

Writing the order, Justice Chandrachud said: "In the order passed by this court on 11 July 2017, it was observed that the purpose of the directions contained in the order dated 15 December 2016 is to deal with the sale of liquor along and in the proximity of highways properly understood, which provide connectivity between cities, towns and villages.

"Having regard to this object it was noted that the order does not prohibit licenced establishments within municipal areas. Indeed, in order to ensure that the order is uniformly understood across the country, this court clarified that it will govern other municipal areas as well.

"Having regard to these directions, we are of the view that the state governments would not be precluded from determining whether the principle which has been laid down by this court in the order dated 11 July 2017... should also apply to areas covered by local self-governing bodies and statutory development authorities.

"We are inclined to allow the state governments to make this determination since it is a question of fact as to whether an area covered by a local self-governing body is proximate to a municipal agglomeration or is sufficiently developed as to warrant the application of the same principle.

"In deciding as to whether the principle which has been set down in the order dated 11 July 2017 should be extended to a local self-governing body (or statutory development authority) the state governments would take recourse to all relevant circumstances, including the nature and extent of development in the area and the object underlying the direction prohibiting the sale of liquor on national and the state highways."