A division bench of the Kerala High Court on Wednesday rejected petitions from bar hotel owners, challenging the government order to close 730 bar hotels in the state.
As per the new policy, the UDF government has decided not to renew liquor licence of 418 bars, closed since April this year, and revoke the license of another 312 hotels next week.
The bar hotel owners had demanded an interim stay order on the government directive to close down all bars, below the category of five star, on September 12.
Justices Thottathil Radhakrishnan and P B Suresh Kumar held that the bar owners could not make any prima facie case and they were not entitled for stay on the government decision.
Making it clear that it cannot interfere in the liquor policy of the government, the HC rejected the petitioner’s contention that the policy was “hatched overnight”. It said the liquor business could not be considered as a fundamental right.
Advocate General K P Dandapani told the court that the government’s new excise policy, prohibition in a phased manner, was mentioned in the UDF manifesto itself. The AG argued that there were enough materials to justify the government order. Subsequently, the court held that the government action was in tune with the direction of the Supreme Court as well as the recommendations of Justice Ramchandran Commission.
The court said bar licenses were issued on temporary bases and the new policy could not be considered hasty in nature as argued by the hotel owners, besides rejecting the argument of the bar hotel owners that this was declared before it was being ratified by the Cabinet.