The Supreme Court on Wednesday slammed the governments of Punjab and Puducherry for speaking in a language that was friendly to the liquor lobby and revenue-oriented than as states concerned over people’s well-being.
The court’s stinging comments came as it reserved orders on a batch of petitions for the removal of liquor vends on national and state highways since drink-driving was leading to fatal accidents on such roads. The court also said there would be no distinction between hill states and others as far as ban on liquor vends on highways is concerned.
“Look at the number of licences you (Punjab) have given. Because the liquor lobby is so powerful, everyone is happy.”
“You are speaking the language of the liquor lobby,” a bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur, and justices DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao said. The court asked the two government to have a positive attitude on the matter. “You are defeating the objective by carving out exceptions,” Chief Justice Thakur observed as Punjab’s counsel said the amended liquor policy had exceptions to permit liquor shops in markets coming under flyovers on national highways.
The Punjab government came in for flak after the court was told that in pursuance of the policy that liquor shops should not be visible, the liquor vends’ rear portions now faced the highway and their front sides were not exposed to highway travellers. “The (liquor) stock is not visible but there are enough indications that vend is close by,” the bench remarked.
“Look at the number of licences you (Punjab) have given. Because the liquor lobby is so powerful, everyone is happy. The excise department is happy, the excise minister is happy and the state government is also happy that they are making money. If a person dies due to this, you give Rs 1 or 1.5 lakh. That is it. You should take a stand which is helpful for the society,” the bench said.
When the Supreme Court was told that removing liquor vends from highway in Jammu and Kashmir was not possible as they would then come up in inaccessible places, the court remarked that let them serve liquor at homes.