India: Supreme Court Bans Liquor Sale On Highways

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of the Republic of India issued a ban on the sale of liquor on national and state highways. As per the ruling, liquor outlets within a 500-meter radius of the highways are not permissible. The ruling is limited to alcohol outlets.

All advertising for alcohol along highways must also be removed.

The highest court of India has said that the existing licenses of the alcohol distribution shops will lapse on April 1, 2017.

The ruling is viewed as a response to a series of road traffic accidents fueled by alcohol. There are almost 150,000 deaths from road accidents every year in India. The rate is the highest in the world and has increased by close to 50% in the past decade. Around 5%, or close to 7,000, of last year’s deaths were attributed to drivers who had been intoxicated.

Driving under the influence of alcohol – major concern

A 2012 systemic review of existing evidence showed that a significant proportion of injured or killed road users in India had used alcohol before the accident. India has the second largest road network in the world with over 3 million km of roads of which 60% are paved. These roads make a vital contribution to the India’s economy. Alcohol fueled road traffic accidents and fatalities are therefore a major obstacle to development.

A study conducted by IOGT International member ADIC-India revealed that around 40% of road accidents have occurred under the influence of alcohol.

A 2015 study, entitled “A Study of Incidence of Alcohol Use In Fatal Road Traffic Accidents” presented evidence that nearly 20% of victims of fatal road accidents were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash.

Alcohol availability is part of the problem

The Supreme Court ruling has now made it clear that easy and wide availability of alcohol is part of the problem. Many NGOs had petitioned for this ban as a road safety measure. A report commissioned by the Supreme Court found that the procedure for issuing licenses was “very lax,” with states often swayed by boosts to its revenue.

Human life is precious. As the road network expands in India, road infrastructure being an integral part of economic development, accidents profoundly impact on the life of common citizen.

For a nation on the cusp of economic development, India can well avoid the tag of being the accident capital of the world,” a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said, according to reports from the Indian Express.