Madras HC rejects TN govt’s attempt to reopen liquor shops by declassifying highways


Chennai: The Madras High Court has rejected the Tamil Nadu government’s plans to reopen liquor vents along highways by reclassifying them as urban roads.

Hearing a petition against the State government’s move to circumvent the Supreme Court’s order, the first bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar issued an interim order restraining the government from reopening liquor shops and bars for the next three months or until further orders from the court.

The apex court had recently ruled that liquor shops and bars cannot function within 500 meter radius from national and State highways. The order was aimed at controlling drunk driving.

In Tamil Nadu alone, the order has led to the closure of nearly 3,300 liquor shops.
To dodge the apex court’s order, the State government has initiated plans to reclassify highways passing through cities and towns as “urban roads”, hence bypassing the court ruling using the technicality.

For the record, the State government had said that the move was actually aimed at urban local bodies to carry out projects like storm water drains without waiting for the highway department’s clearance.

The move was challenged by the opposition DMK party’s propaganda secretary RS Bharathi and president of the Advocates Forum for Social Justice advocate K Balu.