High Court of Kerala has upheld the government liquor policy, dismisses Bar Hotels owners plea

Kerala High Court divisional bench comprising of justices K T Sankaran and Babu Mathew P Joseph, upheld the congress state government’s liquor policy which was framed last year and confined the licences to five star hotels and set aside the earlier order of single judge permitting four-star bars and heritage hotels.

Leaders like V M Sudheeran and Oommen Chandy had clashed regarding the issue of renewing the liquor license to 418 bars which were stated as poor standard bars in 2007.  The court granted licenses to nearly 418 bars to operate as beer and wine parlours and IMFL was provided only to 5 star hotels and some outlets that was run by the government and which is nearly 300 odd retail outlets.  Court while delivering the judgment said that no fundamental right was offended by the policy and right to drink was not a fundamental right.

When appeal was made by bar owners and state government Court had given its verdict by dismissing the order of single judge who allowed four star and heritage hotels to serve liquors.  Congress government had banned all hotels below five star status to serve liquors.

Court considered the scientific study done by a one-man Commission regarding the consumption of liquor in Kerala to uphold the said policy.  Judgement was declared in an open court and rejected the bar owners plea about the closure of bars will affect the economy.  Some of the houseboat industry people and tourism and labour department had reported to the government that this new policy brought some losses to their business and flow of tourists to Kerala had also reduced.  Court said that it cannot interfere in government’s policy as government is aware of economic condition of the state.  Court rejected the plea and said that public health is the main duty and work of the state.

Court also confirmed that it cannot dictate the government that policy was bad and noted the rights of individuals is not affected by such a policy as the policy is made for the welfare of the state wherein it is trying to implement these kind of policies to achieve complete prohibition slowly.

Congress government has plans to ban the sale and consumption of liquor and that it aims at complete prohibition of liquor within 10 years down the lane.

By Sushma Javare