The Bombay High Court on Monday directed the secretary of the PWD and the commissioner of the excise department to consider the pleas of bars, liquor shops, permit rooms, restaurants and hotels individually to decide which of those fall within 500 metres of a highway for sale of liquor.
A Division Bench of Justice Shantanu Kemkar and Justice M.S. Sonak was hearing a bunch of petitions, challenging the notice by the excise department following the Supreme Court ruling to ban alcohol in 500 metres of the state and national highways.
The petitioners from Thane, Vasai-Virar, Pune, Kolhapur, Satara and Sangli contended that many of the shops don’t fall within the area, and that the government has included even arterial roads. The court ordered the PWD secretary to decide on this before July 5 and refused to stay the notice on implementing the apex court orderThe advocate appearing for the petitioners said there are statutes of highways which cannot be ignored and that the government cannot have a blanket order on closing down establishments.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni justified the move of revoking licences of bars and permit rooms. He also said there is no need to produce any notification declaring a road as highway under relevant sections of the Maharashtra Highways Act. The court said the State has issued notices to establishments without giving them an opportunity, so each case must be heard separately.
the liquor outlets said they are on State roads and not on state or national highways. Petitioners’ advocates argued that blanket orders were passed directing closure of their business and that there is no notification classifying and notifying roads as state highways. Opposing grant of interim relief, the State’s advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhankoni submitted that there is no need for a notification for application of Supreme Court’s order and added that what has to be seen is the spirit in which it has been passed. He said the SC has made collectors accountable for implementation of its direction.
The judges questioned if collectors could be allowed to exercise their individual discretion. They noted that closure notices were issued without ascertaining in each case whether the premises falls within 500 meters of state highways or not. The judges said it is better a secretary level officer decides so that whatever is decided is binding on respective officers. Keeping in view the Supreme Court’s direction to close down liquor vends along highways, the judges disposed of the petition directing the PWD secretary, who will be assisted by the State excise commissioner, to treat the petitions as representations and decide their grievances on or before July 5 . “Let this be considered in each case,” the bench added.