At what distance should wine shops stay? SC clarifies

In a bid to address the persistent legal disputes surrounding the placement of liquor shops near highways, particularly near religious and educational sites, the Supreme Court has sought to clarify its stance on the matter, according to a TOI report by Dhananjay Mahapatra.

The Supreme Court bench, comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, grappled with a new wave of petitions highlighting the inconsistencies within the court’s previous directives. These conflicts arose from differing orders issued since December 2016.

Representing licensed liquor shop owners, senior advocate P B Suresh and advocate Vipin Nair, supported by Attorney General R Venkataramani, argued against the stringent distance regulations imposed by the court. They contended that adhering to a 500-meter buffer zone, as mandated by one of the court’s orders, would effectively render all liquor shops in a small Union Territory like Puducherry non-operational. Additionally, they pointed out that previous rulings allowed municipal authorities to determine appropriate distances based on local regulations.

In its order dated January 29, the bench chaired by CJI Chandrachud referenced a judgment from March 20, 2023, which prohibited liquor shops within 500 meters of national or state highways, or their service lanes. Subsequent orders modified this distance to 220 meters for towns with populations under 20,000. Interestingly, the court’s March 2023 ruling mandated the relocation of liquor shops to within 150 meters of religious and educational institutions, despite conflicting with its own 2016 directive in the K Balu case.

The Supreme Court’s addressed this irregularity and cited the 500 meter-limit as the guideline surrounding liquor shop locations.

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