The Maharashtra government today faced embarrassment when it told the Bombay High Court that its officials were unable to locate any notification or document classifying roads as state highways in its records and even a Google search had proved futile. A division bench of Justices S M Kemkar and M S Sonak, which was hearing pleas linked to the fallout of the Supreme Court ordered ban on liquor shops within 500 metres of the national and state highways, had earlier this week asked the government to submit before it a notification or any document declaring or classifying roads as state highways.
Irked with the government’s response, Justice Kemkar said that the court “will be forced to pass adverse orders”, if the state fails to produce the notification by June 12, the next date of hearing. The court is hearing a bunch of petitions filed by liquor stores, bars and restaurants in the state challenging notices issued to them by the Maharashtra excise department prohibiting them from selling liquor.
The notices were issued in compliance with an order passed by the Supreme Court last year directing all liquor shops falling within 500 metres of the national and state highways to be shut. The state government’s lawyer today failed to submit any document and told the court that the officials concerned could not find any notification in the records classifying state highways.
The lawyer said that the officials even tried searching for the notification on web search engine ‘Google’ but failed to get any relevant results. “We would like the state Advocate General to appear in the matter and see if the notification can be secured. If the state fails to produce the notification by the next date we will be forced to pass adverse orders,” Justice Kemkar then told the government counsel. The court has posted the petitions for hearing on June 12.
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The petitioners’ argument is that besides banning sale of liquor along the highways, the government had also ordered closing of those shops which were located within 500 metres of the arterial roads.