Concerned over 1.5 lakh fatalities every year in road mishaps, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said it may direct closure of liquour vend on national and state highways across the nation, besides removal of the signages indicating their location.
The apex court, while reserving verdict on a batch of pleas seeking a direction to amend excise laws to ensure that no liquor is sold alongside highways, came down heavily on the Punjab government for seeking relaxation and permitting liquor shops near highways if they are “elevated” ones and the vend are under or near it.
“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 one or 1.5 lakh. That is it. You should take a stand which is helpful for the society,” the bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said.
Reminding the state government of its constitutional obligation to prohibit liquor sale, the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, said, “You are speaking the langauge of liquor vendors... Is this your endeavour to seek prohibition. Nearly 1.5 lakh people die every year...We are asking you to do something for the general public.”
The bench also expressed its unhappiness over alleged inaction by various states in removing liquor shops alongside roads which give rise to drunken driving and consequential fatalities.
It said that revenue generation cannot be a “valid reason” for a state or a Union territory to give licence for liquor shops on highways and the authorities should adopt a positive attitude to remove the menace.