New Delhi, Dec 15: The Supreme Court today ordered a ban on all liquor shops on national as well as state highways across the country and made it clear that licenses of existing shops will not be renewed after March 31 next year.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur also directed that all signages indicating presence of liquor vends will be prohibited on national and state highways.
The bench also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao said the existing licenses of liquor shops across the highways will not be renewed after March 31, 2017.
Last week, the apex court had expressed concern over 1.5 lakh fatalities every year in road mishaps, saying it may direct closure of liquor vends on national and state highways across the nation, besides removal of the signages indicating their location.
The apex court, while reserving verdict on December 7 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 had said.
Reminding the state government of its constitutional obligation to prohibit liquor sale, the bench had asked the state to do something for general public considering that nearly 1.5 lakh people were dying every year.
The bench had also expressed unhappiness over alleged inaction by various states in removing liquor shops alongside roads which give rise to drunken driving and consequential fatalities.
It had 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.