By dodging SC ruling on highway bars, states sending out a wrong message | opinion | Hindustan Times
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By dodging SC ruling on highway bars, states sending out a wrong message

While states have been re-designating national highways and state highways as city roads, developers have also been doing their bit”: Many have made cosmetic structural changes such as shifting the entrance to a corner of the building farthest from the highway, hoping to squeeze in a few extra metres and beat the law.

opinion Updated: Apr 18, 2017 15:28 IST
KumKum Dasgupta
In a significant clarification of its December 15, 2016,  judgment banning sale of liquor within 500 metres of highways across the country, the Supreme Court on March 31 said the ban extends not just to retail liquor outlets but also to bars, pubs and restaurants located on highways.
In a significant clarification of its December 15, 2016, judgment banning sale of liquor within 500 metres of highways across the country, the Supreme Court on March 31 said the ban extends not just to retail liquor outlets but also to bars, pubs and restaurants located on highways.(Hindustan Times )

The Supreme Court’s recent order banning the sale of liquor within 500m of national and state highways have unleashed animal spirits in the country’s usually slothful state governments. Within hours of the ban coming into effect, states showed enormous energy and alacrity, usually missing when it comes to implementing key development policies, to find out creative ways to dodge the new rule.

The order came into effect from April 1.

While states have been re-designating national highways and state highways as city roads, developers have also been doing their bit”: Many have made cosmetic structural changes such as shifting the entrance to a corner of the building farthest from the highway, hoping to squeeze in a few extra metres and beat the law.

In an article in Hindustan Times, Faizan Mustafa, vice-chancellor NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, called the order a case of judicial overreach. “The order will not be able to prevent drunken driving and the Supreme Court did acknowledge that people may now start their journey after stocking up on enough intoxicating drinks. In fact those driving long distances would not mind covering an additional distance of 500 metres to purchase liquor,” he wrote. He added that all directive principles of state policy are ‘policy issues’ and those should be left to the government. It is not the job of the court to force the government to implement them. In fact at times such orders are against the spirit of ‘separation of powers’.

It is also true that the ban could lead to massive retrenchment in the hospitality sector. Just after the SC order, Niti Aayog boss Amitabh Kant tweeted: “Tourism creates jobs.Why kill it? Supreme Court’s highway liquor ban verdict may hit 1 million jobs”.

While there are strong arguments against the ban, the way state governments have been behaving to circumvent the SC order is not just bad in law but also sends out a wrong message to the people.

In the garb of saving employment and tourism (the revenue that is), they are breaking the law.

And that’s not all: By finding ways to circumvent the law, it is teaching citizens that it is all right to break a law if you can make sure that you have a decent and acceptable ‘humane’ excuse.

@kumkumdasgupta