Supreme Court Reverses Decision on Wine Shop Closure Near School

The Supreme Court has reversed its earlier decision to close a wine shop located 150 meters from a school in Puducherry. The court reconsidered its order, noting that restrictions on liquor shops near highways, as outlined in a 2016 judgment, had been relaxed in subsequent rulings in 2017 and 2018.

In March 2023, the Supreme Court had directed the closure of the Puducherry wine shop, relying on its earlier decision in State of Tamil Nadu v. K Balu (2016). However, the court acknowledged that it might not have been aware of the modifications made in 2017 and 2018 when it issued the closure order.

The recent decision came in response to review petitions filed by the Puducherry government and the affected liquor licensee. The government contested the accuracy of the March 2023 judgment, which had prohibited wine shops within 500 meters of educational institutes, temples, or mosques.

The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, along with Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, concluded that the Puducherry case needed a fresh examination in light of the updated legal position. The matter has been sent back to the Madras High Court for a new decision.

The original 2016 judgment, known as the K Balu case, imposed restrictions on the placement of liquor outlets in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. In March 2017, the Supreme Court modified its order concerning the ban on liquor shops along State and National Highways. Notable changes included reducing the distance from 500 to 220 meters for towns with a population under 20,000 and exempting Sikkim and Meghalaya due to their natural geography.

The March 2023 closure order for the Puducherry wine shop, issued by a different bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar, was based on the belief that it violated the earlier K Balu judgment. The Puducherry government, however, argued that subsequent Supreme Court orders clarified that distance limits in municipal areas would be determined by the State government. The Puducherry government had set the limit at 50 meters and granted permission to the wine shop.

Considering these arguments, the Supreme Court recalled its March 2023 order, setting aside the High Court’s decision and returning the case to the Madras High Court for a fresh decision.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court’s recent decision emphasizes the importance of considering updated legal positions and modifications in earlier judgments. The case highlights the need for a nuanced approach in applying restrictions on liquor outlets, taking into account specific circumstances and subsequent clarifications by the court.