In its recent order banning liquor sale and consumption in three districts in the State, the Uttarakhand High Court has drifted outside the confines of law and entered the domain of morals and desired behaviour. The court has crossed its legal remit by extending a government policy of prohibiting liquor outlets in the vicinity of places of worship, to cover Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi from April 2017. It has also banned tobacco products within a five-km radius of three gurdwaras. The court has assumed the power to make regulations on its own even after observing that the State government “has taken laudable measures to prohibit the sale of liquor in specified areas”. The petitioner had not sought any such ban. The court has used a petition challenging the grant of a bar licence at a location near Haridwar as an opportunity to moralise on the evils of drink. Ironically, the Division Bench has found no illegality in the grant of licence as the bar concerned is situated outside the municipal limits where the prohibition operates. However, it has clothed itself with the power to give “sanctity” to the government order that prohibits liquor in the vicinity of the Char Dham (four holy shrines) by clamping judicial prohibition in the whole of the three districts.

The court has cited Article 47 of the Constitution, which says it is the duty of the state to raise the level of nutrition and standard of living of the people and improve public health, and to prohibit the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs. In general, courts refrain from enforcing Directive Principles, though some judicial decisions are based on combining their underlying goals with aspects of Fundamental Rights. The Bench cites several judgments that hold that engaging in the liquor business is not a Fundamental Right. However, these precedents invariably arise from challenges to government policies regulating or prohibiting the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol. In fact, earlier this year the Supreme Court refused to entertain a petition seeking a nation-wide ban on alcohol, observing that this was a matter of policy into which it cannot venture. It is one thing to cite constitutional goals to justify state action against liquor or drugs; it is quite another to cite them as a justification for judicial directions. Earlier this year the Supreme Court cautioned judges against assuming powers based on individual perceptions or notions. Howsoever noble an idea may be, courts should be wary of making rules on their own, as it would amount to transgressing into the policy domain.



1. Drifted (verb) (स्रोत से बहाकर ले जाया जाना) – be carried slowly by a current of air or water
Synonyms – amble, slide
Antonyms – disperse, direct
Ex: Her thoughts drifted to the island.

2. Confines (verb) (सीमीत करना)– keep or restrict someone or something within certain limits of (space, scope, or time)
Synonyms – bounds, radius
Antonyms – center, middle
Ex: It did not take the dog long to escape the confines of the backyard.

3. Vicinity (noun) (आस-पास)– the area near or surrounding a particular place
Synonyms – environs, district
Antonyms – faraway
Ex: In the vicinity of the police station, the crime rate is very low.

4. Laudable (adjective) (प्रशंसनीय)– (of an action, idea, or aim) deserving praise and commendation
Synonyms – deserving, estimable
Antonyms – disrespected, unworthy
Ex: Despite her disabilities, Candace has achieved some laudable achievements.

5. Petitioner (noun) (आवेदक– The person presenting a petition to a court or other body in order to institute an equity hearing or to appeal from a judgment
Synonyms – aspirant, suitor
Ex: The mayor hid himself indoors and dared not go out to confront the petitioners.

6. Sanctity (noun) (पवित्रता)– the state or quality of being holy, sacred, or saintly
Synonyms – divinity, mercy
Antonyms – meanness
Ex: The detective knew he could not violate the sanctity of the home without a warrant.

7. Clamping (verb) (बंद करना) – fasten (something) in place with a clamp
Synonyms – bracket, clasp
Antonyms – release
Ex: A clamping of his jaw.

8. Enforcing (verb) (लागू करने) – compel observance of or compliance with (a law, rule, or obligation)
Synonyms – accomplish, incite
Antonyms – cease, halt
Ex: That is not enforcing a boundary.

9. Venture (noun) (जोखिम का काम) – a risky or daring journey or undertaking
Synonyms – enterprise, investment
Antonyms – certainty, inaction
Ex: Even though Justin considers himself to be very smart financially, he lost over a million dollars when his last venture failed.

10. Transgressing (verb) (उल्लंघन करना) – go beyond the limits of (what is morally, socially, or legally acceptable)
Synonyms – infringe, violate
Antonyms – behave, obey
Ex: All soldiers who serve their time and never transgress any of the regulations will receive an honorable discharge.

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