Shimla: Hauled up for overlooking the courts directions about setting up liquor vends on highways, near educational institution and about surrogate advertisements, the High Court on Thursday, permitted the government to frame its excise policy for 2013-14 after the advocate general assured the court that the courts orders would be duly obeyed.
The double bench of Acting Chief Justice RB Mishra and Justice Rajiv Sharma modified orders passed on 11th December, 2012 stating that ‘the mandate shall be strictly followed’ after incorporating the observation about the advocate general informing the court that the government would abide by the earlier courts orders.
Before listing the case after three months the judges permitting framing of the new excise policy, that a week ago had been put on hold by the court for not incorporating the courts orders in the policy.
Earlier advocate general Shrawan Dogra let the court know that the government would increase the distance of liquor vends from educational institutions upto 100 meters, no surrogate advertisements would be allowed in the state and setting up liquor vends would not be allowed where they are visible from national or state highways and other important roads. The sign boards shall be strictly as per norms prescribed, the advocate general stated in court.
During the hearing of petition in December, 2012 about opening of a restaurant-cum-bar on a road leading to a Government Engineering College, a division bench of the court had observed, “in case the allegation of the petitioner is correct that this restaurant-cum-bar will cater to the students of the college and nobody else., then it makes a mockery of the avowed policy of the state to ensure that youngster are kept away from intoxicants.”
The judges had noted that the issue of location of liquor vends was coming before the courts time and again and pointed out that when the Cigarette and other Tobacco Products Act 2003 prohibited sale of tobacco products within 100 meters radius, why should liquor be permitted to be sold only at a distance of 60 meters from educational institutions.
“Health of the children and the future of our society is much more important than the revenue collected by the state,” the judges had opined.
Noting that drunken driving was the chief cause of accidents in Himachal and the state had a stronger law that other states about drunken driving which treated the “offence equivalent to culpable homicide not amounting to murder,” the judges observed, “ then we see no reason how the said state can permit liquor vends to be opened on high-ways.”
The judges had ordered that the 2013-14 excise policy should reflect the courts observations.
The court had asked for setting up a committee headed by chief secretary to prepare a draft excise policy in which a minimum age of a person who can purchase liquor be defined, a clause about minimum distance from educational institutions, places of religious worships and highways be incorporated and before opening liquor vends in rural areas, views of gram sabha’s and mahila mandal be taken into consideration.