Supreme Court Appointed Panel on Road Safety Suggests Ban on Sale of Alcohol on Highways

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In an effort to curb the menace of proliferating road accidents on state and national highways, a panel appointed by the Supreme Court on the issues of road safety, headed by Justice KS Radhakrishnan (former judge of the Supreme Court), suggested placing a ban on selling alcohol on state and national highways.

Dealing with a problem that causes the death of nearly 150 thousand people every year, the Supreme Court had appointed the 3 member committee in April, 2014. The mandate of the committee included a review of the Motor vehicles act and other rules and regulations relating to motor vehicles and road safety. The panel observed and pointed out a plethora of debilitating problems with the State governments’ enforcement of laws and rules pertaining to motor vehicles. The commission also ordered the states to provide fillip to such rules, by strictly implementing the rules against drinking & driving, over-speeding and other similar offences. Apart from Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Nagaland which were lauded for active implementation of road safety mechanisms, the panel stated that other states have been severely deficient in framing or implementation.

The Supreme Court, recording the findings of the panel, ordered the states to enforce the suggestions of the report. However, it did caution that a ban on sale of alcohol might result in some financial difficulties, affecting State exchequer. The bench, comprising Justices Madan B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit observed that though the ban on sale of liquor on state and national highways is not prima facie wrong, it has potential financial implications, which need to be taken into consideration.

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Among other recommendations of the panel, road safety audit are to be conducted by states to guarantee that safety standards are enforced in the design, construction and maintenance of roads and highways. The report also pointed out that enforcement of laws relating to mandatory wearing of helmets for two-wheeler and pillion riders has also been shoddy.

Further, the report pointed out that the authority issuing licenses have also adopted an extremely lackadaisical attitude towards the standards which are required to be kept, before licenses are issued by the licensing officer. Any hoardings or obstructions, acting as obstacles in driving or distractions to drivers, should also be removed by the governments.

The Court further upbraided the governments for ad-hocism and the random manner in which they have undertaken the programmes relating to creating awareness for drivers concerning road safety rules. Along with that, the lack of trauma centres and ambulances providing emergency services is extremely appalling and responsible for making roads “giant killers”.

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by Siddhartha Singh