Watering holes at DLF CyberHub in Gurgaon and hotels at Aerocity in New Delhi will be forced to go dry immediately in view of a Supreme Court decision to uphold a previous order prohibiting the sale of liquor near highways across the country.
The apex court on Friday maintained that its verdict banning the sale of alcoholic beverages at establishments located within 500 metres of state and national highways will extend to hotels, pubs and bars too. Consequently, thousands of bars and pubs across the country – including 34 at DLF CyberHub – are likely to lose their liquor licences.
Although the bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar refused to drastically amend the order prohibiting liquor at all outlets within the prescribed distance, it introduced a partial modification reducing the limit to 220 metres in areas with a population of less than 20,000.
The verdict came on multiple petitions filed against a previous order passed on December 15, 2016.
The bench, also comprising justices DY Chandrachud and LN Rao, rejected the applicants’ request to extend the Sunday deadline. As per the order, no establishment that sells or serves alcohol can operate in violation of the apex court directive from April 1.
“Drunk driving is a potent cause of fatalities and injuries in road accidents. The Constitution preserves and protects right to life as an over-arching constitutional value,” the bench said.
However, it allowed some relaxation in states like Telangana and Maharashtra because their excise year was yet to end. The ban will be enforced from September 30 in those states.
The verdict will prohibit liquor from being served at around 50 hotels, restaurants and pubs in Delhi from the midnight of March 31. The city’s excise department said teams will be deployed to ensure that these establishments – mostly on national highway-8 – do not violate the apex court order.
“Among the major hotels affected by the order are Radisson, Uppal and the ones at Aerocity,” excise commissioner Sanjay Kumar told HT.
Around 70 liquor vends located on national highways in the city have already been sealed, officials said.
Gurgaon deputy excise and taxation commissioner Aruna Singh said the authorities would comply with the Supreme Court’s order, although they were yet to receive a copy of the same. “We have conducted a survey and submitted our report to the headquarters,” said Singh.
The fresh ruling virtually rejected attorney general Mukul Rohatgi’s legal opinion to Kerala and Haryana that the verdict was not meant for restaurants, bars and hotels. “As the object of the direction is to prevent drunk driving, making any such relaxation will defeat its purpose,” the bench said.
The law officer’s request to extend the deadline was also dismissed. Rohatgi, appearing for Tamil Nadu, argued that the order required rectification because the court had “transgressed its limitations” by interfering with the state’s right to prescribe distance. His argument, however, did not find favour with the court.
The bench cited the topographical constraints of Sikkim and Meghalaya to exempt them from the verdict. Himachal Pradesh received some relief, with the court reducing the prescribed distance from 500 to 220 metres.
The fresh order came on applications urging the court to modify, review or clarify its judgment. Eight states – two of whom later withdrew their pleas – and several representatives of traders had approached the top court in this regard. Eighteen states refrained from filing petitions.
(With inputs from Leena Dhankhar and Vishal Kant)