The SC has just stopped the sale of liquor along the Highways not the drinking. And, if someone consumes liquor in a car or a bar or tavern not coming within the distance limit finalised by the SC, will he or she not indulge in drunken driving?
The Supreme Court has now partially relaxed some conditions on banning liquor vends along national and state highways only for small towns with population less than 20,000.
In such places, no vends will be allowed within a distance of 220 metres from the highways, whereas the earlier distance limit was 500 metres.Despite this partial relaxation, hundreds of pubs and bars in Punjab, alike other states are set to be affected.
The SC virtually overruled Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s legal opinion rendered to the Kerala government, in which the law officer had said that the court-ordered ban on liquor vends within 500m of state and national highways would not apply to pubs, bars, hotels and restaurants that serve alcohol. The SC bench, however, held that letting bars and restaurants serve alcohol within a 500m-range of national highways would defeat the very purpose of its order of December 15, last year, whereby the court sought to curb drunken driving.
This stringent order of the Supreme Court, though taken in good sense, has, in fact, complicated the issue. With hundreds of vends and bars lying closed in the state, can we expect that now the drunken driving accident cases would be checked automatically?
While few may nod their head while answering the query but a majority would certainly have a different opinion. The SC has just stopped the sale of liquor along the Highways not the drinking. If someone consumes liquor at vend or bar or tavern not coming within the distance limit finalised by the SC, will he or she not indulge in drunken driving? This is the major question as of now.
When the traffic rules related to drunken driving are unchanged, how can one expect that this sale ban along the Highways would automatically check the drunken driving accidents? And, if it is aimed just to check the truck drivers purchasing bottles along the highway, let it be clear that it is not only the truck drivers whose ‘drinking habits’ lead to accidents on road but the number of fatal accidents in which youth with swanky cars were learnt to be drunk is also too huge.
According to a general observation, such people either need a good place, whether it is located along the Highway or far from it, or they would have make their car a bar. So the point is that one can’t blame the sale of liquor along the highways as the sole reason of accidents and while passing any such stringent order, it is always better to consider various other aspects like the revenue loss to the states with business getting severely affected all across.
Not commenting against the SC judgement, being a citizen of the country one has an absolute right to analyse the development while also considering various side-effects of it. Finding the condition making the business unviable, the liquor contractors in half of Punjab didn’t even come forward to participate in the draw of lots for the financial year that started just two days back. The hotel and bar industry that had just started standing on its feet after a lot of struggle in previous times again suffered a hit.
There will be hardly anyone favouring drunken driving but stopping the sale along the Highways can’t be the only solution. With due respect to the wisdom of the judiciary, the country should have a better law enforcement system to check the drunken driving rather than banning the drinks.
As the Chandigarh Police are far stricter than the cops in Punjab and Haryana, people in these states’ capital carry fear in the mind if they sit on the driving seat after having booze. Though the number of drunken driving cases are significant in Chandigarh, it will still be too negligible if one compares with the actual instances anywhere in Punjab and Haryana but the fact is that the state police are hardly bothered to check the menace.
So the need of the hour is to prevent drunken driving by ensuring certainty of detection and deterrent punishment, rather than hitting a complete industry and that too which is the major source of revenue to carry the developmental works across the state.
According to information, the state had cut its revenue target through liquor sale from last year’s Rs 5,400 crore to Rs 5,200 crore this time. Further, keeping the SC order in mind, the newly formed state government had already cut the number of liquor vends from 6,384 to 5,900 but the things seem to have gone haywire.
A senior bureaucrat of Punjab has rightly said in his latest post of Facebook: People indulge in nonsense only when they have a feeling that they can get away with it. The success of law enforcement is when drivers dare not accept drinks even if they are offered to them free of cost on the footpaths along the road. Hardcore delinquents need to be instilled with fear of punishment in their minds, rather than complicate the affairs of hotel and hospitality industry. One job lost means five humans sleeping hungry.
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