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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Road Accidents = No shop for the sale of liquor shall be (i) visible from a national or state highway; (ii) directly accessible from a national or state highway and (iii) situated within a distance of 500 metres of the outer edge of the national or state highway or of a service lane along the highway.

                                                                  REPORTABLE


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                   CIVIL APPEAL Nos .12164-12166   OF 2016
              [Arising out of SLP (C) Nos.14911-14913 of 2013]


THE STATE OF TAMILNADU            .....APPELLANTS
REP. BY ITS SECRETARY HOME,
PROHIBITION & EXCISE DEPT & ORS

                                   Versus

K BALU & ANR           .....RESPONDENTS


                                    WITH

                      CIVIL APPEAL No. 12167   OF 2016
                   [Arising out of SLP (C)No.8267 OF 2014]

                      CIVIL APPEAL Nos. 12168   OF 2016
                   [Arising out of SLP(C) No.8971 OF 2014]

                      CIVIL APPEAL No. 12169   OF 2016
                  [Arising out of SLP (C) No.35454 OF 2014]

                       CIVIL APPEAL No.12170   OF 2016
             [S.L.P.(C) No.36787 of 2016 @ of CC No.231 OF 2015]

                   CIVIL APPEAL Nos. 12171-12172  OF 2016
    [S.L.P.(C) Nos.36788-36789  of 2016 @ of CC Nos.18587-18588 OF 2015]

                       CIVIL APPEAL No.12173   OF 2016
                  [Arising out of SLP(C) No.34525 OF 2015]



                                     AND

                          T.P.(C) No.739-741OF 2016




                               J U D G M E N T



Dr D Y CHANDRACHUD, J

Delay condoned.

Leave granted.



The issue which we address in this case is  about  the  presence  of  liquor
vends on national and state highways across the  country.  The  backdrop  to
the case is provided by  alarming  statistics  on  the  occurrence  of  road
accidents. They have claimed human lives and  caused  debility  and  injury.
Both on a personal scale (in terms of the injuries  and  loss  of  life)  as
well as in a social context, restitution in the form of mandatory awards  of
compensation can never undo the trauma of loss and the  pain  of  suffering.
The law can only imperfectly alleviate the consequences of  road  accidents.
In terms of personal suffering caused to individuals and  families  as  well
as in terms of deprivation  caused  to  society  of  its  productive  social
capital, road accidents impose  unacceptable  costs.  We  will  analyse  the
issues which have been raised in this case on the basis of facts  which  are
not in dispute and on the foundation  of  policy  statements  of  the  Union
government which have been formulated after careful consideration. In  doing
that, the court must ensure that the parameters  for  the  exercise  of  its
jurisdiction  are  confined  to  the  familiar  terrain  of  enforcing   the
constitutional right to lead a life of dignity and self-worth.

2     The Union  and  the  State  Lists  of  the  Seventh  Schedule  to  the
Constitution  distribute  (in  conjunction  with  Articles  245   and   246)
legislative jurisdiction over the highways which  traverse  the  length  and
breadth of  India,  between  Parliament  and  the  State  Legislatures.  The
constitutional pattern in relation to the distribution of legislative  heads
is replicated in this area : what is  national  is  reserved  to  Parliament
while that which has a state-centric orientation is reserved  to  the  state
legislatures. Entry 23 of the Union List is thus :

“23. Highways declared by or under law made by  Parliament  to  be  national
highways”.





Entry 13 of the State List is thus :

“13. Communications, that is to say,  roads,  bridges,  ferries,  and  other
means  of  communication  not  specified  in  List  I;  municipal  tramways;
ropeways; inland waterways and traffic thereon subject to the provisions  of
List I and List III with regard  to  such  waterways;  vehicles  other  than
mechanically propelled vehicles.”



3     The Union Ministry of Road Transport and  Highways  in  its  Transport
Research Wing has brought out a publication titled “Road Accidents in  India
- 2015”. The cover depicts in rather graphic terms vehicles involved in  car
crashes. There is a large group of persons assembled in the  foreground,  an
ambulance bearing the ‘108’ logo  and  a  police  car.  Familiar  sights  on
Indian roads. The publication tells us that :

“11.1 During 2015, within the category of drivers’ fault,  accidents  caused
and  persons killed due to ‘Exceeding lawful speed’, accounted  for  a  high
share of 62.2 per cent (2,40,463 out of 3,86,481  accidents)  and  61.0  per
cent (64,633 out of 1,06,021 deaths), respectively.

However taking  into  account  the  total  road  accidents  and  total  road
accident killings, the share  of  over  speeding  comes  to  47.9  per  cent
(2,40,463 out of 5,01,423 accidents)  and  44.2  per  cent  (64,633  out  of
1,46,133 deaths) respectively.

11.2 Intake of alcohol/drugs by drivers resulted in  16,298  road  accidents
and 6,755 fatalities in 2015 within the category of drivers’  fault,  intake
of alcohol/drugs accounted for 4.2 per cent and 6.4 per cent respectively.

However taking  into  account  the  total  road  accidents  and  total  road
accident killing, the share of intake of  alcohol/drugs  comes  to  3.3  per
cent (16,298 out of 5,01,423 accidents) and  4.6  per  cent  (6,755  out  of
1,46,133 deaths) respectively.”



4     The total number of persons  killed  in  road  accidents  on  national
highways was 48,768 in 2012 and 51,204 in 2015. In  2014,  on  the  national
highways there were 1.24 lakh accident cases resulting in 1.35 lakh  persons
injured and 46,110 deaths. During the same year, on  state  highways,  there
were 1.13 lakh accident cases resulting in  1.24  lakh  injured  and  39,352
deaths. The expressways witnessed 4,208 accident cases,  4,229  injured  and
1,802 deaths.[1]. Figures are also available of  the  distribution  of  road
accidents by causes during 2014. 1.38 lakh  persons  were  injured  in  road
accidents  involving  dangerous  or  careless  driving  and  42,127   deaths
occurred. Injuries caused in accidents due to over-speeding  stood  at  1.81
lakh while there were 48,654 deaths. 7,307 accident cases involving  driving
under the influence of drugs/alcohol  were  registered  resulting  in  7,398
injuries and 2,591 deaths. In regard to the figures of death or  injury  due
to drunken driving there is a tendency to under estimate or under—report  in
order not to impede the right of  victims  and/  or  their  legal  heirs  to
receive compensation.

5     Now in this background, it would be necessary to elucidate the  policy
 adopted by the Union government. The National Road  Safety  Council  (NRSC)
is an apex body for road safety established under Section 215 of  the  Motor
Vehicles Act, 1988. NRSC unanimously agreed in  a  meeting  which  was  held
nearly thirteen years ago on 15 January 2004 that licences for liquor  shops
should not to be given along the national highways.  The  Ministry  of  Road
Transport  and  Highways  (MoRTH)  issued  a  circular  to  all  the   state
governments advising them to remove liquor  shops  situated  along  national
highways and not to issue fresh licenses. Since 26  October  2007,  when  an
advisory  was  issued,  MoRTH  has  consistently  advised  all   the   state
governments to remove liquor shops  and  not  to  issue  fresh  licences  to
liquor vends along national highways.

6     On 1 December 2011, MoRTH in an advisory to the Chief  Secretaries  of
all the States and Union Territories  noted  that  India  had  reported  the
highest number of road accident fatalities in the world  and  data  of  2009
indicated  that  a  road  accident  occurred  every  four  minutes.  Drunken
driving, it was stated, was a leading cause of road accidents with  as  many
as 27,152 road accidents being caused under  the  influence  of  alcohol  in
that year. The advisory drew attention to the provisions of Section  185  of
the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and solicited the following enforcement  action
:

“(i)  Strict enforcement of section 185 of MV Act 1988  preferably  pursuing
cases in various courts for award of penalty  of  imprisonment  followed  by
adequate publicity which will  together  act  as  a  deterrent  for  drunken
driving.

(ii)  Removal of Liquor shops along National highways.

(iii)  No fresh license may be issued to Liquor vendors to open shops  along
National highways.

(iv) Wherever licenses have been given in the  past  to  open  liquor  shops
along National highways, such cases may be reviewed  and  corrective  action
taken under intimation to this Ministry.”



Section 185 to which a  reference  has  been  made  in  the  above  circular
provides as follows :


“185. Driving   by  a   drunken  person   or   by   a   person   under   the
influence of  drugs.

Whoever, while driving, or attempting to drive, a motor vehicle,--

has,  in his  blood, alcohol  in any quantity, howsoever small the  quantity
may be, or

is under the influence of a drug to such an extent as  to  be  incapable  of
exercising proper control over the vehicle,  shall  be  punishable  for  the
first offence with imprisonment  for  a  term  which  may   extend  to   six
months, or with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, or with  both;
and for a second or subsequent offence, if committed   within  three   years
of  the commission  of the  previous similar offence, with imprisonment  for
a term which may extend to  two years,  or with fine  which  may  extend  to
three thousand rupees, or with both.

Explanation.--For the purposes of this section, the drug or drugs  specified
by the Central Government in this behalf, by notification  in  the  Official
Gazette, shall be deemed to render a person incapable of  exercising  proper
control over a motor vehicle.”
.

Section 185 is indicative of  a  Parliamentary  intent  to  follow  a  zero-
tolerance policy towards driving under the influence of alcohol.

The position was illustrated in another advisory  dated  18  March  2013  of
MoRTH to the Chief Secretaries of States and Union Territories where it  was
stated that in 2011,  1.42  lakh  people  were  killed  in  4.9  lakhs  road
accidents.  24,655  road  accidents  were  caused  due  to  drunken  driving
resulting in 10,553 deaths and injuries  to  21,148  persons.  The  advisory
requested the removal of all liquor vends on national highways and a ban  on
the issuance of fresh licences on the  ground  that  “prevention  is  better
than cure”.

7     In an advisory dated 21 May 2014, MoRTH  stated  that  in  2012,  1.38
lakh people were killed in 4.9 lakh road accidents.  23,979  road  accidents
were caused due to drunken driving resulting in 7835 deaths and injuries  to
23,403 persons.

8     The Union government has constantly issued advisories setting out,  as
a matter of policy, its position.

9     The material which has been placed on record indicates that :

(i) India has a high rate of road accidents and fatal road accidents  –  one
of the advisories states that it  is  the  highest  in  the  world  with  an
accident occurring every four minutes;

(ii)  There is a high incidence of road accidents due to driving  under  the
influence of alcohol;

(iii)  The existence  of  liquor  vends  on  national  highways  is  in  the
considered view of the National Road  Safety  Council  and  MoRTH  –  expert
authorities with domain knowledge – a cause for road accidents  on  national
highways;

(iv) Advisories  have  been  issued  to  the  State  Governments  and  Union
Territories to close down liquor vends on national highways  and  to  ensure
that no fresh licences are issued  in  the  future.  The  reason  why  these
advisories  are  confined  to  the  national  highways  is  because  of  the
distribution of legislative competence between  the  Union  and  the  States
under the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution. State  highways  fall  under
the domain of the states.

10    The figures which are  available  on  the  record  indicate  that  the
occurrence of a large number of road accidents is not a phenomenon  confined
to national highways nor is the  prevalence  of  road  accidents,  including
fatalities, confined only  to  the  national  highways.  Both  the  national
highways and state highways share a common  experience  of  an  unacceptably
high number of road  accidents,  the  prevalence  injuries  and  fatalities;
drunken driving being one of the major causes. Hence,  the  content  of  the
advisories which have been issued by the Union government as well  as  their
basis, rationale and foundation  would  equally  apply  to  state  highways.
Human life  is  precious.  As  the  road  network  expands  in  India,  road
infrastructure being an integral part  of  economic  development,  accidents
profoundly impact on the life of the common citizen.  For a  nation  on  the
cusp of economic development, India can well avoid  the  tag  of  being  the
accident capital of the world.  Our  highways  are  expanding,  as  are  the
expressways.   They   provide   seamless   connectivity    and    unheralded
opportunities for the growth of trade and industry and for the  movement  of
goods, persons and capital. They are the backbone of the  freedom  of  trade
and commerce guaranteed by Article 301 of  the  Constitution.  Our  highways
are dotted with sign boards warning of the dangers of  combining  speed  and
alcohol. Together, they constitute a heady  cocktail.  The  availability  of
liquor along the highways is an  opportunity  to  consume.  Easy  access  to
liquor shops allows for drivers of vehicles    to  partake  in  alcohol,  in
callous disregard to  their  own  safety  and  the  safety  of  others.  The
advisories of the Union government to the states are founded  on  a  logical
and sound rationale.

11    We are conscious of the fact that the policy of the  Union  government
to discontinue liquor vends on national highways may not  eliminate  drunken
driving completely. A driver of a motor  vehicle  can  acquire  liquor  even
before the commencement of a journey or, during a journey at a  place  other
than a national or state highway. The  law  on  preventing  drunken  driving
also requires proper enforcement. Having said this, the  court  must  accept
the policy of the Union government for  more  than  one  reason.  First  and
foremost, it is trite law that in matters of policy, in this case  a  policy
on safety, the court will defer to and accept a considered  view  formed  by
an expert body. Second as we have seen, this view of  the  Union  government
is based on statistics and data which make out  a  consistent  pattern  year
after year. Third the existence of  liquor  vends  on  highways  presents  a
potent source for easy availability of  alcohol.  The  existence  of  liquor
vends; advertisements and sign boards drawing attention to the  availability
of liquor coupled with the arduous drives  particularly  in  heavy  vehicles
makes it abundantly necessary to enforce the policy of the Union  government
to safeguard human life. In doing so, the court does  not  fashion  its  own
policy but enforces the right to life under Article 21 of  the  Constitution
based on the considered view of expert bodies.

12    There is no fundamental right  under  Article  19(1)(g)  to  trade  in
liquor. Liquor has been regarded as res extra commercium :  State  of  Bihar
v.  Nirmal  Kumar  Gupta,  (2013)  2  SCC  565;  Amar  Chandra  Chakraborty,
Appellant v. Collector of Excise, Govt of Tripura, Agartala,  (1972)  2  SCC
442; Nashirwar v. State of Madhya Pradesh, (1975) 1 SCC 29; Har  Shankar  v.
Deputy Excise and Taxation Commissioner, (1975)  1  SCC  737;  Secretary  to
Government, Tamil Nadu v. K. Vinayagamurthy, (2002)  7  SCC  104;  State  of
Punjab v. Devans Modern Breweries Ltd. (2004) 11 SCC 26. State of Kerala  v.
Kandath Distilleries, (2013) 6 SCC 573.

13    Liquor licences in respect of potable alcoholic liquor are granted  by
the state governments. Entry 51 of the state list  provides  for  duties  of
excise on alcoholic liquors for home consumption manufactured  and  produced
in the state and countervailing  duties  at  the  same  or  lower  rates  on
similar goods manufactured or produced elsewhere in India.    The  power  of
the states to grant liquor licences is undoubted. The issue is whether  such
liquor licences should be granted on national  and  state  highways  at  the
cost of endangering  human lives and safety. In our view, which is based  on
the expert determination of the Union government, we hold  that  the  answer
should be in the negative. Though, excise duty is  an  important  source  of
revenue to the states, a prohibition on the  grant  of  liquor  licences  to
liquor shops on the national and state  highways  would  only  regulate  the
grant of such licences in a manner that would ensure  that  the  consumption
of alcoholic liquor does not pose dangers to the lives  and  safety  of  the
users of national and state highways. May  we  also  remind  ourselves  that
among the Directive Principles contained in  the  Constitution  is  that  in
Article 47 :


“47. Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the  standard  of
living and to improve public health:
The State shall regard the  raising  of  the  level  of  nutrition  and  the
standard of living of its people and the improvement  of  public  health  as
among its primary duties and, in particular, the State  shall  endeavour  to
bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes  of
intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.”




14    Well over a decade  ago,  the  Union  government  had  formulated  for
consideration  and  adoption  by  the  states  a  document   titled   “Model
Policy/taxation/act/rules for alcoholic beverages and  alcohol”.  The  Model
Policy inter alia made general provisions relating  to  liquor  vends.  Para
92(2) of the Model Policy inter alia provides as follows :

“(2) No licence for sale of  liquor  shall  be  granted  to  a  retail  vend
selected within a distance of 100 metres from any religious  or  educational
institution or hospital or outside the inhabited site of village  /town/city
or any Office of  the  State/Central  Government  or  Local  Authorities  or
within a distance of 220  metres  from  the  middle  of  the  State/National
Highways.

Explanation – For the purpose of this rule :

“National Highway” or “State Highway” shall not include such  parts  of  the
National Highway or State Highway as  are  situated  within  the  limits  of
Municipal  Corporation,  City  or  Town  Municipal  Council  or  such  other
authority having a population of twenty thousand or more.”



This Model Policy provided for a minimum distance  from  the  state/national
highways for locating liquor shops. However, an exception was carved out  to
the effect that the national or state highways would not include such  parts
of them as are situated within the limits of the local  authorities  with  a
population of 20,000 or more. By an order of this Court  dated  8  September
2015, the attention of the authorities was drawn to the fact that the  model
policy had been prepared nearly a decade earlier and  several  decisions  of
the High Courts have been delivered since. Hence, the court opined  that  it
was necessary  that  the  policy  is  revisited  by  the  states  and  union
territories and by the Union government together in regard to  the  sale  of
liquor and alcoholic beverages  in  the  proximity  of  national  and  state
highways. MoRTH however has informed the court on  affidavit  that  a  model
policy on alcoholic beverages and alcohol does not fall within its  purview,
and hence it may not be in a position to  review  the  model  policy.  MoRTH
while stating this has emphasised its considered view and position based  on
the statistics of road accidents that liquor shops should  not  be  situated
along national highways. We see no rational basis to  exclude  stretches  of
national highways and state highways which  fall  within  the  limits  of  a
municipal or local authority  (with  a  population  exceeding  a  stipulated
figure) from the ambit of the suggested prohibition.  Where  a  national  or
state  highway  passes  through  a  city,  town  or  through  the  area   of
jurisdiction of a local authority, it would completely deny sense and  logic
to allow the sale of liquor along that  stretch  of  the  highway.  Such  an
exclusion would defeat the policy since the presence of liquor  shops  along
such stretches of a  national  or  state  highway  would  allow  drivers  to
replenish their stock of alcohol, resulting in a situation which the  policy
seeks to avoid in the first place. Once it is an accepted position that  the
presence of liquor vends along the highways poses a  grave  danger  to  road
safety an exception cannot be carved out to permit the sale of liquor  along
a stretch of the highway which passes through the limits of a city, town  or
local authority. Such an exception would be wholly arbitrary  and  violative
of Article 14.

15    During the course of the hearing, learned counsel appearing on  behalf
of the State of Punjab stated before the  court  that  based  on  the  model
policy the Punjab Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016 was brought into force on  28
March 2016. Section 26A of the Punjab Excise Act, 1941 provides  as  follows
:

"26-A. (1) The location of the  liquor  vends  shall  be  regulated  by  the
Government: Provided that this section shall be applicable  only  to  liquor
vends situated in areas adjoining the National Highways and  State  Highways
for consumption, off the premises. (2) No licence for sale of  liquor  shall
be granted to  a  liquor  vend  situated  within  the  road  reservation  of
National Highways and State Highways and  beyond  road  reservation  neither
the liquor vends nor  their  entry  points  shall  be  visible  or  directly
accessible from the National Highways and State Highways. Explanation.–  (i)
“Visibility” means existence of any signboard, direction  mark,  display  of
stock of liquor, display of rates or any direct/indirect invitation  to  the
commuter travelling on such Highway; and (ii)  “Directly  Accessible”  means
such liquor vend shall  not  be  directly  approachable  from  the  National
Highway and State Highway. (3) The restrictions referred to  in  sub-section
(2) shall not apply to the liquor vends situated in the areas  adjoining  to
National Highway and State Highway, passing through the limits of  Municipal
Corporation/Municipal   Council/   Municipal   Committee/   Notified    Area
Committee/ Nagar Council/ Cantonment Board or any other Authority  having  a
population of twenty thousand or more."



16    Explanation 3 by its operation merely confers an enabling  power  upon
the state government to grant liquor  licences  in  the  area  as  described
therein. We are of the view that the exercise of this enabling power by  the
State government  must  not  obstruct  or  impede  the  overwhelming  public
interest in ensuring that  the  sale  of  liquor  along  national  or  state
highways should be   discontinued  having  regard  to  the  danger  to  road
safety.

17    These proceedings have arisen under Article 136  of  the  Constitution
from the judgments of the High Courts  at  Madras  and  Punjab  and  Haryana
respectively. The Madras High  Court  was  seized  with  a  public  interest
litigation seeking the removal of retail outlets for liquor on national  and
state highways, contrary to the advisory of the  Union  government  dated  1
December 2011. The High Court noted that in the state of Tamil  Nadu  liquor
shops along the highways  are  being  run  by  Tamil  Nadu  State  Marketing
Transport  Corporation  (TASMAC).  Before  the  High  Court,  the   Managing
Director of TASMAC stated that :

“It was also submitted that TASMAC Ltd has been taking all prudent steps  to
remove the shops located in Highways  and  has  instructed  all  the  Senior
Regional Managers to refrain from giving new  licenses  to  shops  that  are
proposed to be located on the Highways and also shift the existing shops  to
some other place without violating the Rule  8  of  the  Tamil  Nadu  Liquor
Retail Vending (in Shops and Bars) Rules, 2003 and other relevant laws.”

The affidavit stated that nearly  504  shops  are  situated  along  national
highways and sometime would be required to  relocate  them.  It  was  stated
that 75 shops have been shifted and a new location for 335  shops  had  been
identified. Six  months’  time  was  sought  for  shifting  the  shops;  the
affidavit having being filed in March 2013. The High  Court  by  a  judgment
and order of its Division Bench dated 25 February 2013  granted  time  until
31 March 2013 for the relocation of  existing  liquor  shops  being  run  on
national/state highways. This order of the High Court  has  been  questioned
by the State of Tamil Nadu and TASMAC.

18    During the pendency of these proceedings,  this  Court  by  its  order
dated 7 May 2013 directed that  liquor  vends  along  national  highways  be
removed by 14 August 2013. Notice was issued, confined  to  the  closure  of
liquor vends along state highways. An affidavit was filed before this  Court
on 22 August 2013 by the state government stating  that  504  TASMAC  retail
liquor shops along the national highways have been shifted.  The  additional
affidavit filed by the state on 29 April  2013  sets  out  the  position  in
regard to state highways.

The total length of state highways is  divided  into  five  regions  namely,
            (i) Chennai; (ii) Coimbatore (iii) Madurai; (iv) Salem; and  (v)
Trichy and traverses 9520.4 kilometres. The total number of  shops  situated
thereon is stated to be 1731. 839 liquor shops out of them are  situated  in
market areas abutting  the  state  highways  in  towns,  municipalities  and
corporations while 892 are liquor shops in rural areas  abutting  the  state
highways. These figures which have been disclosed by  the  state  government
indicate the serious nature of the  problem.  The  proliferation  of  liquor
shops on state highways (1731 shops  over  9520  kilometres)  indicates  the
easy availability of liquor  on  the  state  highways.  Evidently  within  a
distance of a few kilometres a liquor shop is  available  to  cater  to  the
demand of the users of the highways.  There  can  be  no  valid  distinction
between a national highway and state highway  insofar  as  the  location  of
liquor shops abutting the highway is concerned. Accidents  take  place  both
on national and state highways and the easy availability of  liquor  possess
a grave danger to the safety and lives of those who use these highways.

19    Insofar as the State of Punjab is concerned, the petition for  special
leave has been filed by the state government against a  judgment  and  order
of a Division Bench of the High Court dated 18 March  2014.  Like  the  case
before the Madras  High  Court,  the  proceedings  before  the   Punjab  and
Haryana High Court were instituted in public interest (in this case  by  the
Arrive Safe Society of Chandigarh) seeking directions  for  the  removal  of
liquor vends from   highways. The High Court directed the State  of  Haryana
to ensure in its liquor policy that no liquor vend shall  be  located  along
the  national  highways/state  highways  and  that  liquor  shops  are   not
accessible or visible from those highways or from the service lanes  running
along such highways. The High Court rejected the case of the state that  the
prohibition should be confined only  to  the  national  highways.  The  High
Court has, in our view, justifiably held that it  can  hardly  be  contended
that drunken driving is not permissible on national  highways  but  does  no
harm on state highways. In relation to the  States  of  Punjab  as  well  as
Haryana the High Court has held that the prohibition would  apply  to  state
and national highways.

20    For the reasons that we have already indicted, we  have  come  to  the
conclusion that the views of the High Court of Madras and the High Court  of
Punjab and Haryana are unexceptionable. No distinction can be  made  between
national and state highways in regard to the location of  liquor  shops.  In
regulating the use of national and state highways, the safety of  the  users
of the road is of paramount concern. It would defy common sense to  prohibit
liquor  shops  along  national  highways  while  permitting  them  on  state
highways. Drunken driving as a menace and as a cause of road accidents is  a
phenomenon common to  both  national  and  state  highways.  Nor,  is  it  a
plausible defence to urge that while it is impermissible to drink and  drive
on a  national highway, it is permissible to do so on a state highway.

21    Moreover, we find merit in the restrictions suggested  by  the  Punjab
and Haryana High Court that the prohibition should extend not merely to  the
national and state highways but must be so appropriately tailored so  as  to
ensure that the policy is not defeated by locating  liquor  shops  in  close
proximity of the  highway.  A  restriction  that  the  shop  should  not  be
accessible or visible from the national or state highways or from a  service
lane along such highways is necessary to  ensure  that  the  policy  is  not
surreptitiously violated. Our attention has been drawn during the course  of
the hearing to a report filed by the OSD Vigilance before  the   High  Court
indicating that the prohibition was sought to  be  defeated  by  setting  up
liquor vends which, though not visible from the highway,  were  situated  in
close proximity with signboards indicating their presence. The entry to  the
shop is camouflaged or placed at the rear  portion  to  evade  the  judicial
direction. A detailed survey has been made by the OSD in which  observations
in regard to liquor shops located along the highway have been  recorded.  We
may also advert at this stage to  a  letter  dated  4  August  2012  of  the
Project Director of National Highways  Authority  of  India  (NHAI)  to  the
Deputy Commissioners of various regions in  Punjab.  The  letter  highlights
that on a stretch of 291 kilometres on the Panipat-Jalandhar section of  NH-
1, there are as many as 185 liquor shops (though in  comparison  the  trauma
centres and hospitals where immediate medical service  can  be  provided  to
road accident victims is almost negligible). Many of the liquor  shops  have
encroached on national highway land. Though, NHAI has sought the removal  of
these shops, “concrete action” is yet  to  be  taken  due  to  the  lack  of
support from various quarters. Liquor shops,  the  Project  Director  notes,
are  owned  by  influential  people  making  the  removal  of   unauthorised
encroachment impossible without the support of the district  administration.


22    For all these  reasons,  we  have  come  to  the  conclusion  that  no
licences for liquor shops should be allowed both on the national  and  state
highways. Moreover, in order to ensure that this provision is  not  defeated
by the adoption of subterfuge, it would  be  necessary  to  direct  that  no
exception can be carved out for the grant of liquor licences in  respect  of
those stretches of the national or state highways  which  pass  through  the
limits of any municipality  corporation,  city,  town  or  local  authority.
Necessary safeguards must be  introduced to ensure  that  liquor  vends  are
not visible or directly accessible from  the  highway  within  a  stipulated
distance of 500 metres form the  outer  edge  of  the  highway,  or  from  a
service lane along the highway.

23    However, we have also duly borne  in  mind  the  practical  difficulty
which has been expressed on behalf of the licence holders  (including  those
in the town of Mahe) and the states that there are licences which have  been
duly renewed and whose term is still to expire. The  states  apprehend  that
premature termination may lead to claims for refund of licence fee  for  the
unexpired term, with large financial implications.  Hence  we  would  direct
that current licences may continue for the existing term but not later  than
1 April 2017.

24    We accordingly hereby direct and order as follows :

All states and union territories  shall  forthwith  cease  and  desist  from
granting licences for the sale of liquor along national and state highways;



The  prohibition  contained  in  (i)  above  shall  extend  to  and  include
stretches of such highways which fall  within  the  limits  of  a  municipal
corporation, city, town or local authority;



The existing licences which have already been renewed prior to the  date  of
this order shall continue until the term  of  the  licence  expires  but  no
later than 1 April 2017;



All signages and advertisements of  the  availability  of  liquor  shall  be
prohibited and existing ones removed forthwith both on  national  and  state
highways;



No shop for the sale of liquor shall be  (i)  visible  from  a  national  or
state highway; (ii) directly accessible from a  national  or  state  highway
and (iii) situated within a distance of 500 metres of the outer edge of  the
national or state highway or of a service lane along the highway.



All States and Union territories are mandated to strictly enforce the  above
directions. The Chief Secretaries and  Directors  General  of  Police  shall
within one month chalk out a plan for enforcement in consultation  with  the
state revenue and home departments. Responsibility shall be  assigned  inter
alia  to  District  Collectors  and  Superintendents  of  Police  and  other
competent authorities. Compliance shall be  strictly  monitored  by  calling
for fortnightly reports on action taken.



These directions issue under Article 142 of the Constitution.

25    We dispose of the appeals and transfer petitions in the  above  terms.
There shall be no order as to costs.


….......................................CJI
                                                     [T S  THAKUR]



    ….............................................J
                                                   [Dr D Y  CHANDRACHUD]




...........................................J
                                                    [L NAGESWARA RAO]
New Delhi
December 15, 2016.
-----------------------
[1]

      [2] See death A.7 page 160


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