In an effort to tackle the ongoing legal disputes regarding the positioning of liquor outlets near highways, particularly in proximity to religious and educational premises, the Supreme Court has moved to clarify its stance on the matter, as reported by Dhananjay Mahapatra in TOI.
The Supreme Court bench, led by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud alongside Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, grappled with a fresh influx of petitions spotlighting inconsistencies within the court’s previous directives. These discrepancies stemmed from conflicting orders issued since December 2016.
Advocating for licensed liquor vendors, senior counsel P B Suresh and advocate Vipin Nair, supported by Attorney General R Venkataramani, argued against the stringent distance regulations imposed by the court. They contended that adhering to a 500-meter buffer zone, as mandated by one of the court’s orders, would effectively shut down all liquor establishments in a small Union Territory like Puducherry. Furthermore, they highlighted previous rulings permitting local authorities to determine suitable distances based on municipal regulations.
In its ruling dated January 29, the bench chaired by CJI Chandrachud referred to a judgment from March 20, 2023, which prohibited liquor outlets within 500 meters of national or state highways, or their service lanes. Subsequent orders adjusted this distance to 220 meters for towns with populations under 20,000. Notably, the court’s March 2023 verdict necessitated the relocation of liquor outlets to within 150 meters of religious and educational institutions, despite conflicting with its own 2016 directive in the K Balu case.
Addressing this discrepancy, the Supreme Court cited the 500-meter limit as the benchmark for the placement of liquor outlets.