State of Tamil Nadu v. K. Balu
[SCC Online SC 1487, Decided On 15.12.2016]
The Apex Court was concerned over 1 lakh fatalities every year in road accidents and seeked to close the liquor shops beside national and state highways across the nation along with signs indicating their location. The state government is also obligated to prohibit liquor sale.
ISSUES BEFORE COURT
- Day by day accidents are increasing on the highways, sometimes directly linked to liquor consumption.
- Inaction of the State to remove alongside the roads which give rise to drunken driving and consequential fatalities.
- No concrete steps taken by the Centre to curb the menace
- No response from the Centre, State and Union Territories regarding pleas seeking a direction to amend excise laws to ensure that no liquor is sold alongside highways.
- Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and said almost five lakh accidents occurred last year in India, killing 1,46,000 people and leaving thrice the number injured.
The Supreme Court ordered a ban of liquor shops on state and national highways all over India and explicitly said that the licenses of existing shops will not be renewed after March 31, 2017.
The Court charged the Punjab government, for not doing there required duty. It contended that –“Look at the number of licenses 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, (Ban sale of liquor on all National, State Highways from 1 April: Supreme Court
With the implementation of this order the country will probably have lower number of mishaps on the highway which was happening and rapidly increasing with the constant help of numerous legal and illegal liquor shops. As one of the pleas had said “”India being a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration, it is imperative that policy guidelines are framed to control road accidents. Also, the excise policies of Indian states and Union territories should be amended to conform to the spirit of Article 47 r/w Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” ( Ban sale of liquor on all National and State Highways from April 1, 2017: Supreme Court, http://www.firstpost.com/ Dec 15, 2016)