Should Liquor be banned on highways


Liquor banning brings the larger debate effectiveness of single dimensioned approach to achieve a desired target. As states are losing huge amount of revenue , effectiveness of this verdict should be discussed.


The Supreme Court has called for a complete ban on sale of liquor along national and state highways.

Supreme Court Judgement

1.All states and union territories shall forthwith cease and desist from granting licences for the sale of liquor along national and state highways;

2.The prohibition contained in above shall extend to and include

i. stretches of such highways which fall within the limits of a municipal corporation, city, town or local authority;

3. All signage’s and advertisements of the availability of liquor shall be prohibited and existing ones removed forthwith both on national and state highways;

4.No shop for the sale of liquor shall be visible

a.from a national or state highway

b.directly accessible from a national or state highway

c.Situated within a distance of 500 metres of the outer edge of the national or state highway or of a service lane along the highway

5.All States and Union territories are mandated to strictly enforce the above directions.

6.These directions issue under Article 142 of the Constitution.

7.Later Supreme Court clarified that any such executive action would not fall foul of the law if the highway was within the city limits.

8.This allows the executive to decide if it should denotify a highway and lose central assistance needed for its upkeep and permit liquor joints to continue within 500 metres on either side.



  1. A public interest litigation petition was filed by NGO Arrive Safe in the Supreme Court,
  2. nearly 1.42 lakh people were killed in road accidents every year, mainly owing to drunk driving.
  3. The National Road Safety Council, which was established under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, had concluded at a meeting in January 2004 that liquor shops should not be given licences along the National Highways
  4. This was followed up by a Road Transport and Highways Ministry’s circular to all State governments, advising them to remove liquor shops situated along the National Highways and not to issue fresh licences in 2011, 2013 and 2014.
  5. The advisory drew attention to the parliamentary mandate of zero tolerance of driving under the influence of alcohol.
  6. The Supreme Court also highlighted the Union government’s policy titled ‘Model Policy/taxation/act/rules for alcoholic beverages and alcohol’ issued a decade ago, which advocated a ban on liquor vends situated 220 metres from the middle of the State or National Highways.
  7. Although driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs accounted for 3.3% of the total road accidents and 4.6% of the total deaths.
  8. The court contended that over-speeding, the prime reason for accidents, could also occur owing to drunk driving.
  9. It further said there was a tendency to under-report drunk driving as a cause of accidents and liquor was easily available on the State Highways.
  10. revenue loss.: According to estimates by the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI), the ban will lead to a loss of ₹2 lakh crore to the exchequer and ₹20,000 crore to the industry. It has estimated that nearly 1 lakh establishments will face the threat of closure.

Outcome of the Judgement

  1. State governments face a huge loss in revenue.
  2. Smaller administrative units such as Union Territories will be the worst-hit.
  3. Such quirky orders have inevitably led to quirky responses.
  4. The UT of Chandigarh, for instance, has declared all city roads as urban roads.
  5. Puducherry, which includes enclaves such as Mahe, will find relocation of many shops impossible. They are caught between the highway and the sea.
  6. Goa, a small State that depends heavily on tourism, is in a similarly difficult situation.
  7. The relaxation of the liquor-free zone from 500 m to 220 m from the highways in the case of areas with a population of 20,000 or less might only partly address their concerns. More than a third of the liquor sale and consumption points will be hit.

Arguments Supporting Liquor Ban

  1. Bigger lorry and trucks cause the most of highway accidents. The drivers of these vehicles are poor people, usually with lesser concern for safety issues that arise out of drunk driving. A report suggests that almost all truck and bus drivers drink and drive. Government has been trying to keep a check on issuing license to these drivers but to no effect. Ensuring that there is no availability of liquor shops on the highway could be a great measure to help them quit.
  2. Distraction to those trying to quit: Recovering alcoholics are the worst. Even if these drivers try to curb the desire to drunk so as to avoid getting caught at check points and losing their license and jobs, the availability of liquor shops along the highway and their advertisement banners entice them back into the trap of death. These are tired people who do not have much expectation from life. Some of them are known to drive for days and nights on a single go. They are much easier to fall back into drinking if there is availability of liquor nearby.


  1. Attitude of judiciary: This judgment reflects the growing trend among judges to resort to a rather questionable form of judicial law-making.
  2. Although a well-intentioned order, it is in flagrant breach of the basic constitutional principle of separation of powers between the legislature, executive and the judiciary.
  3. The court may seem to believe that acting in public interest, as a guardian of people’s rights, its powers are unfettered. However, such outright overreach can prove to be highly problematic for the entire system of governance in the country.
  4. Availability: People in need of liquor will arrange it .They will pay a local boy to get it from the shops after 500 meters from highway. It is not even 1 km that would bother them to make it think as a very long distance before they can fall into the habit that is usually an addiction for them.
  5. Where will all the alcohols go? There are huge numbers of liquor shops along the national and state highways because they must be doing good business there. These are the people who have been protesting on the ban. They will find the illegal way to supply alcohol to the drivers. Put a ban on anything and people have natural instincts to have it more than ever.
  6. Recklessness: most of the accidents on highways are a result of drunken driving but is drunker driving a result of liquor shops along the highways? Definitely, no. There are plenty of reasons why there is no reduction on drunken driving. We do not have stringent laws and whatever little we have there is no proper implementation of them.
  7. Why not cancel more licenses? Unlike other developed countries there is not much done about cancelling the license of those who drink and drive. They are easily left to go with a small bribery to the officers in charge.
  8. Bad roads: Highways are not in very good condition in India. There are potholes and less broad space where vehicles try overtaking each other. There aren’t enough speed checkers in most areas. Even if a person is drunk, like most lorry drivers, they are more likely to remain in their limits if they have the fear of losing their license and job but unfortunately that is not the case here.


  1. Road accidents are a much bigger problem in India than it is shown to be. People die. Banning alcohol shops within 500 meters range from highway to lessen accidents is like trying to deal with a mad elephants with a string of thread. It needs bigger moves and bigger implication
  2. Prohibition as a policy has had a history of failure. While binge-drinking is undoubtedly a health hazard with serious social costs, bans of the sort adopted by courts and State governments such as Bihar are counterproductive. Good intentions do not guarantee good outcomes.


“Only banning of liquor in the highway will not deliver the required Outcome”. Critically analyse

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