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Highway denotification: SC breather for city bars


BENGALURU: Apex court finds nothing wrong with govt seeking to denotify stretches of National Highways that pass through city limits.

In a big relief to pubs, bars and star hotels in Bengaluru, and rest of Karnataka, the Supreme Court on Tuesday found nothing wrong with government seeking to denotify those stretches of national highways that pass through city municipal limits.

A road downgraded from being a national highway would enable pubs and bar & restaurants to resume their business. They have stopped serving alcoholic beverages since July 1, and are complaining of incurring heavy losses.

Around 340 pubs and bars, and a few star hotels have not been serving alcohol in Bengaluru in deference to a Supreme Court order, according to which, no outlet can serve alcohol within a distance of 500 metres from highways. As a result, Church Street and MG Road, besides scores of other roads, have lost their charm for party-goers.

The SC on Tuesday clarified that the spirit of the order was to prevent drunken driving on national highways, and the municipal or district roads were not what the ban targeted. The government is free to denotify such roads that are no longer highways, but were notified as highways before.

The court’s remarks came during the hearing of a petition which challenged a notification by the Chandigarh administration denotifying state highways to prevent closure of liquor shops owing to the ban. Bengaluru’s old star hotel, Lalit Ashok, has erected a compound wall on the Kumara Krupa road, and has built a gate at the rear side to overcome the 500-metre criterion laid down by the court.

State law minister TB Jayachandra told ET that any further action from the state government is possible only if the Supreme Court has passed any written order. He said he has come to know of the court’s observations, but was not clear whether they are verbal remarks made in the open court, or whether they are part of an order.

Over a period of time, the government has built by-passes, including in Jayachandra’s own district of Tumkuru, to national highways passing through the municipal limits. But, as per official records, they remain as highways which is what led to the present issue, he added.

The state government, the law minister said, is either already maintaining or will maintain those stretches the Centre agrees to keep out of NHAI ambit. “We have already written to the Centre to denotify the highways passing through cities, and are awaiting a decision. The ball is in the Government of India’s court,“ he said. Four national highways pass through Bengaluru, hurting the thriving alcohol business in several upscale areas including MG Road, Brigade Boad, Church Street, and Koramangala, but the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) no longer maintains them but the municipal body , BBMP , does.

Since the government cannot chip away at a highway passing through the city and de-notify it, Karnataka will show an alternative route to the stretch proposed for de-notification so that the highway remains seamless, and is without a break.

Source: Economic Times

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