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The Supreme Court’s order of December 15, 2016 (which came into force from April 1, 2017) banning sale of liquor within 500m of state and national highways had a rather poignant fallout in Mumbai and across Maharashtra. The government had issued a blanket ban on such sale and even sealed outlets.

The liquor merchants had approached the Bombay High Court in this regard and the court had the difficult task of keeping to the Supreme Court ruling, while attending the vendors’ request.

On June 12 (Monday), the court ordered that the state government should not have passed a blanket order and should have looked into each case by merit. The high court has directed the Secretary of the Public Works Department (Roads) and the State Excise Commissioner to hear the grievances of each shop owner and its order should then be detailed and with reasons.

The court’s division bench, comprising Justices Shantanu Kemkar and Mahesh Sonak gave this order after going through the petitions filed by the traders.

The government’s blanket order was in reaction to the Supreme Court order, but Justice Kemkar said: “It seems that the government’s decision to shut these shops is taken without considering the grievances or the contentions of the owners. The government cannot pass such a blanket order shutting all the shops.

“We are of the view that the government has passed these orders by only taking in view the judgement of the Supreme Court,” the judge observed.

However the judges refused to grant an interim stay on the government’s blanket order, saying: “We do understand that you have a right to livelihood but at the same time we cannot ignore the observations of the Supreme Court. The SC has in its judgement specifically made observations regarding the increase in the number of fatalities due to drunk driving. This aspect is also important as it indirectly means right to life.”

India Legal Bureau

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