REPEAL DRACONIAN LAW TO BAN SALE OF LIQUOR ALONG HIGHWAYS IN INDIA
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The Hon. Supreme Court of India has passed an order banning the sale of liquor on Highways throughout the country. Lakhs of businesses are going to be affected causing a cascading effect on dependent industries and its employees. Many will be left jobless or may find it extremely difficult to make ends meet henceforth. This may lead to increased crime rates, depression or even suicides!
The Hon. Supreme Court has observed that every year lakhs (approximately 5 lakh in 2015) of accidents occur on Highways leading to several deaths, out of which many are due to drunk driving (about 3.3% of all road accidents). The Hon. Supreme Court, in an effort to curb drunken driving has decided to disallow sale of liquor along State and National Highways and remove all advertising boards that promote liquor brands. The three judge bench of the SC believes that such liquor shops, bars and advertisement boards are a temptation and must be disallowed. Though the intention of the SC is noble and the statistics are not debatable, the order itself is draconian and its repercussions are not well thought of.
The onus of preventing drunken driving lies primarily upon the citizens. The State Police is responsible for monitoring the highways and strictly implementing the existing laws pertaining to drunken driving. As we all know, there are many in the Police Department that accept bribes to let go people who are caught driving under the influence of alcohol. This iron-fisted, thoughtless and unrefined law will only lead to more corruption. The local police stations will make money by taking bribes from restaurants along the highway to allow them to sell liquor illegally. In effect, those that are supposed to be preventing drunken driving will end up with more cash in their pockets. By implementing this law the Hon. Supreme Court is only promoting “black money” contrary to our Hon. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s relentless crusade against it!
The State & Central Government will lose substantial revenue that bars and liquor shops contribute in the form of Excise, VAT & Income Tax. Thus increasing the burden on the tax payers. The State of Maharashtra will itself lose about 7,000 Cr.
As such, merely banning the sale of liquor along highways will not ensure that no more accidents will occur. A person can buy liquor from a shop or bar which is situated more than 500 meters away from the highway. A minor deviation to satisfy the urge to drink is no big deal for one who wishes to drink. Also, people can buy alcohol from city stores and carry it along with them during their journey.
This new law can be compared to the regressive thinking of some who say – “to avoid rapes, women should cover themselves and not wear tempting outfits!” It is the men that need to be reformed and disciplined! In view of this order banning sale of liquor along highways, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hon. Supreme Court orders women to stay indoors to avoid rapes & molestation! Banning the sale of liquor cannot be an excuse for negligent, sloppy and corrupt Law Enforcement!
There are several other reasons for road accidents; especially poor road quality, improper signage, inadequate lighting, lenient driving license issuance procedures etc. I wish the Hon. Supreme Court directs relevant Government agencies to address these issues rather than issue orders that affect livelihood of millions!
It almost feels like the Supreme Court has made this decision without giving enough thought to the causes & effects. The F&B industry is made to bear the brunt because of some irresponsible citizens and corrupt & lazy police officials who do not want to do their job!
My heart goes out to many who have lost their lives in road accidents, but this law is not the only solution to curb fatal road accidents. Can the Hon. Supreme Court guarantee that there will be NO MORE FATAL ROAD ACCIDENTS? Some of my suggestions are –
- All Liquor Shops should be restricted to only sale of liquor and should not be allowed to sell chilled drinks, soda, water, snacks, plastic disposable glasses etc. This will automatically discourage people who quickly down a few drinks at a wine shop.
- Display signs along the Highways and/or at Liquor Outlets visible from the highways should be banned.
- Strict law enforcement by installing check posts along the Highways. Heavy fines, Jail term, Community service, rehabilitation and suspension of driving license can be some forms of punishment. Habitual offenders must be punished with irrevocable permanent suspension of driving license and substantial prison term.
- Eradicate corruption from within the law enforcement agencies by creating awareness, penalizing and/or punishing corrupt officials.
- Introduce a special squad of non-corrupt and vigilant officials for such law enforcement. Random checks along the highways as well as city roads (sobriety checkpoints) should be conducted regularly.
- Make it mandatory for citizens to possess and carry “Drinking Permit” at all times. Make it mandatory for Liquor Shops & Bars to demand Permit at the time of sale. A reasonable annual fee can be collected for issuance of such permit, which can fund the special squad!
- Bars & Liquor Shops should discourage drunken driving by putting up signages etc.
- Insurance companies should increase vehicle insurance premiums of violators.
- Ban surrogate advertising in Digital and Print Media.
- Promote the concept of “designated driver” and use of public. Public participation should be encouraged in such campaigns.
- Exempt Bars and Pubs from this law. It can be limited to Liquor Shops, but they too must be given time and assistance to relocate.
I appeal to the three judge bench consisting of CJI Justice Thakur, Justice Chandrachud & Justice Nageshwara Rao to kindly reconsider this authoritarian law by evaluating the negative socio-economic impact and focus more on awareness, discipline and proper law enforcement!
Almost 60 – 70% of the Bars come under the purview of this law and cannot sell liquor from 1st April 2017. Most of these restaurants employ between 25-100 people in various departments. Many of these employees will be laid off as it will be impossible for businesses to sustain the overheads. Many who have bank loans will not be able to pay their mortgage to the banks. Allied businesses like dairy, poultry, vegetable vendors, grocers etc. will also be badly hit. Many artists (singers, musicians, disc jockeys etc.) who perform at such bars will also be affected. Millions of people who are part of this industry will be affected and this may lead to depression and suicides. I request all our patrons and well wishers to support us in the crusade to repeal this extremely misdirected, regressive law which hasn’t been given enough thought. This impulsive, short-sighted, emotionally motivated and impractical law must be retracted immediately, as this will trigger a mammoth irreversible socio-economic chain reaction which will do serious damage to our country!
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