Several Kerala-based beer and wine parlour owners today approached the Supreme Court seeking clarification of its order to shut down liquor vends within 500 metres of national and state highways from April 1. The matter was mentioned before a vacation bench of Justices R K Agrawal and Deepak Gupta which said the plea would be heard after the summer vacation in July. The applicants told the court that they were granted FL-11 licence in different categories by the excise department of Kerala and their licences were renewed on March 31 for a period of one year. The FL-11 licence pertains to the sale of beer and wine for consumption by public in a separate room in a beer and wine parlour. They have claimed that after the apex court’s March 31 order, the excise department “started threatening” them not to operate their hotels, bars, restaurants and beer and wine parlours which are situated within a distance of 150 metres to 350 metres from national and state highways. The applicants have sought a clarification from the court that its order does not apply to the service of beer and wine parlours as they serve material which contains alcohol below six and 12 per cent respectively. They said stocks worth in lakhs were lying in their shops and they would suffer financial losses if they were not allowed to sell them. The apex court, on March 31, had said liquor vends within 500 metres of national and state highways would be shut down from April 1.
It exempted the hill states of Sikkim, Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh and areas having population up to 20,000. A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar had also made it clear that the verdict banning liquor vends along highways would also be applicable to bars, pubs and restaurants as drunken driving leads to fatal road accidents. It had also modified the 500-metre cap rule for Himachal Pradesh and local areas which are alongside highways with a population up to 20,000, and said that they may have liquor vends at a distance of 220 metres from the highways.
On the issue of non-extension of liquor vend licences beyond March 31, the apex court had said licences given before December 15 last year would be valid till September 30 in case of Telangana and the same would be operational till June 30 in Andhra Pradesh. Earlier on December 15 last year, the apex court had ordered a ban on all liquor shops on national as well as state highways across the country and made it clear that licences of existing shops would not be renewed after March 31 next year. It had also directed that all signages indicating presence of liquor vends would be prohibited on national and state highways. The verdict had come on a PIL alleging that nearly 1.42 lakh people died per year in road mishaps and that drunken driving is a major contributor.