Harman Siddhu led the Supreme Court to consider the ban on liquor shops alongside highways
In view of fatal accidents due to drunken driving, the Supreme Court has ordered a ban on liquor outlets within 500 metres of state and national highways across the country. The move has already wrought massive changes on the roads concerned. The apex court on December 15, 2016, had ordered authorities not to renew licenses of existing shops along national and state highways after March 31. The implementation of this order has led to concerned liquor shops being forced to shut down w.e.f. April 1, 2017. Although the decision that has been discussed by everyone whether to hail or criticize, very few of them know the man who started it all. The man’s name is Harman Siddhu and he led SC to consider the issue and take the ban decision. And no, he is not a VVIP or a big-shot lawyer, but just an ordinary man. And what’s more, he is handicapped. It was he who filed a PIL appealing for all the liquor shops alongside highways to be shut down. It was his effort and dedication to the matter that after five years, the decision was finally implemented.
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But what was the reason behind Herman’s act to file the PIL? It was a road accident. The man was travelling in a car from Himachal Pradesh to Chandigarh when he met with a serious accident. In the accident, Harman received major injuries and as a result, most of his body became paralysed leaving him to stuck to a wheelchair. While Harman was going through medical treatment, he saw many other victims of road accidents. After coming out of the hospital, he started reasearch on road accidents and then he found a WHO report mentioning drunken driving as the reason behind 30-35 percent road accidents. This encouraged him to knock at the court’s order seeking to draw its attention to the matter.
Though the man has received success in what he dreamt of, as the SC has now ordered to ban liquor shops in 500-metre area of highways, the journey was not easy for him. Remembering the days, he said that when Haryana high court ordered to ban liquor shops alongside highways, several dealers of liquors threatened him. Along with many threats came offers looking to bribe – as much as Rs 25 crore was promised!
Moreover, the order of SC was challenged through petitions by several associations across states seeking modification of the court’s verdict. But at the end, his efforts worked and the court ordered its implementation with little modification including exemption of Sikkim and Meghalaya from the 500-metre cap on liquor vends alongside highways along with areas which are alongside highways with a population up to 20,000.