Liquor ban relief in Chandigarh likely after SC observation | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Liquor ban relief in Chandigarh likely after SC observation

Many states have passed denotification orders, apparently to circumvent an earlier court order that banned liquor sale within 500 meters of all highways.

chandigarh Updated: Jul 05, 2017 15:23 IST
Bhadra Sinha
The Sector-26, Chandigarh wearing a deserted look after the liquor ban.
The Sector-26, Chandigarh wearing a deserted look after the liquor ban.(HT File Photo)

In what seems to be a big relief for pubs shut down along Madhya Marg and Dakshin Marg in Chandigarh, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said there was nothing wrong in denotifying state/local highways as district roads within the city.

Many states have passed denotification orders, apparently to circumvent an earlier court order that banned liquor sale within 500 meters of all highways.

“All roads notified within the city are those where there is no fast-moving traffic. We could have appreciated if the road was in the nature of a highway,” a bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar said while hearing a petition challenging the Chandigarh administration’s notification to re-classify its local highways.

The court, however, did not give a final ruling in the case and asked the petitioner to rethink on it till July 11, the next date of hearing. But if the SC asserts its view on the next date, it could give a window to rename highways and avoid closure of bars/pubs and vends affected by the top court’s verdict.

Bone of contention

Post the SC’s December 2016 order, the UT denotified its 2005 notification and named some state highways as major district roads in March 2017. Before the denotification, the UT was staring at a total closure of vends as all major roads in the city are state highways and fall within the ambit of the judgment.

The road categorisation was done around 20 years ago so that the UT administration could maintain these roads, with the municipal corporation short of funds at the time. In Chandigarh, Sectors are 1.2 km long and 0.8 km wide. With all vertical roads being state highways, 500 metres on either side of the road covers the whole of the city. Thus, all sectors came within 500 metres of state highways.

However, it still had to close down 23 odd liquor vends and 50 bars — mainly on Madhya Marg and Sector 35/43. Also the liquor licences given to vends were reduced from 100 to 77 in the 2017-18 excise policy.

As per rough estimates, 2,000 persons were rendered jobless in Chandigarh alone after the decision. The decision on de-notification was challenged in the high court but later on March 29, a HC bench upheld the UT’s decision on renaming highways.

The petitioner, ArriveSAFE, a Chandigarh-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) working on road safety, had moved the top court after the Punjab and Haryana high court on March 16 refused to quash the UT notification. It was contended that by de-notifying state highways and renaming them major district roads, the Chandigarh administration had made a mockery of the SC judgment.

‘Roads in city different from those outside’

Referring to distance criteriom, CJI Khehar said the court gave the order to prevent people from driving fast under the influence of alcohol. “Roads in the city are different from those outside the city,” he told the advocate appearing for petitioner ArriveSAFE, a Chandigarh-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) working on road safety.

Also, the CJI said the classification was genuine. “Our purpose was to ensure that people don’t stop on the way. For example when they drive from Delhi to Agra, they should not stop midway and have a drink,” he said, implying the distance criterion was meant for long-distance travelling.

According to the NGO, if the administration is allowed to denotify highways, liquor vends would be found in residential areas that will disrupt public peace and result in traffic chaos, including road accidents.