Kerala govt to approve new liquor policy today

The government would not wait until the end of this fiscal for the closure of the 312 bars which are functioning now.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: August 22, 2014 6:05 pm
The liquor policy would be presented in the cabinet for its ratification after informing the court,’ said Chandy. (Source: PTI photo) The liquor policy would be presented in the cabinet for its ratification after informing the court,’ said Chandy. (Source: PTI photo)

A day after the Congress-led United Democratic Front recommended steps for liquor-free Kerala, the Government said new liquor policy would be given sanction on Friday itself.

After attending a high-level meeting of officials of Taxes and Excise Departments, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the steps have already been taken to give sanction for the new policy today itself. Besides, the government would not wait until the end of this fiscal to close down the 312 liquor bar hotels which do not fall in the five-star category.

“A high court has asked the government to furnish the liquor policy on August 26, whereas the cabinet has its next meeting only on August 27. Hence, the liquor policy would be presented in the cabinet for its ratification after informing the court,’’ said Chandy.

In another significant move, Chandy said the government would not wait until the end of this fiscal for the closure of the 312 bars which are functioning now. “These bars have been given liquor license as per the existing liquor policy of the government. We have the legal opinion that these licenses would be revoked at any time after giving back the license fee to the hotel owners,’’ said Chandy.

Meanwhile, the debate over bar and bottle got a communal angle on Friday. Prominent Hindu leader Vellappally Nateshan alleged discrimination on the part of the government. He said bars that remained closed belonged to Hindus and those functioning belonged to Christians. “Let the government close down the 312 bars also,’’ he said.

Nateshan also blamed the Christian bishops for demanding total prohibition.

“Total prohibition should not be confined to abandoning brandy and whisky alone. Are the bishops ready to give up wine,’’ asked the Hindu leader.

Nateshan said prohibition was impractical. “The issue stemmed from the group rivalry within the congress. Chandy has outsmarted Sudheeran. Let us wait and see whether Chandy’s goal would turn into a foul in this game,’’ said Nateshan.

Bar Hotel Owners Association said they would challenge the government move in the high court. “Allowing the five-star hotels to run the liquor business shows the discrimination,” said president Biju Rameshan.

He said the industry has investment of Rs 10,000 crore. How the government can decide to suspend the operation in an overnight.

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  1. D
    deepu
    Aug 22, 2014 at 4:45 pm
    These past few months, Mr Sudheeran had been trying to make out asif, he alone is in favour of banningliquor, while those in the congress ledgovernment and the UDF including the chief minister are on the side of theliquor barons. This is far from thetruth. The real facts of the issue as seen from a legal perspective are asfollows. The UDF government led by thecongress in the state had long back in 2012 brought in an amendment to the Kerala Abkari (liquor permit) rulesaccording to which, no new bar hotels ofany clification were to be allowed tobe opened, if it was located withinthree kilometres from an existing bar hotel in a panchayat area and within onekm from an existing bar hotel in a munil area. This shows that the Oommen Chandygovernment had tried to bring down theliquor consumption in the state. Itshould be remembered that the chief minister Oommen Chandy and his governmenthad taken this initiative way back in 2012, at a time when Mr Ramesh Chennithala was the KPCC president and not Mr V.M. Sudheeran. My question is , why is Mr Sudheeran not highlighting thisvery important point. Again, another very important legal fact isthat, this very bold amendment brought in by the Oommen Chandy government to bring down or prevent the opening of new bars long back in 2012, was struck down by the High Court and again by the SupremeCourt. I will quote some of theimportant observations made by thesupreme court in the above case. They are as follows. The Supreme Court clearlysays in the judgement that 1. The closing down of some bars will not act as adeterrant to discourage locals from consuming alcohol. It will only affect the tourism and hotel industry which should beprevented.2. As long as there isliquor available in the state and the government outlets are selling liquor, itwill be violative of the right ofequality guaranteed under Article 14, toimpose restrictions or close down bars in the private sector alone, when the government itself is selling liquorin it’s outlets.When the stategovernment informed the supreme court then that 418 bars had to be closeddown in the state on account of unhygienic cirstances, which would take a toll on the health of thecustomers, the owners of the 418 bars told the supreme court that they wouldrectify the situation and approach the government again. This was approved bythe supreme court. The supreme court never directed the state government toclose down these 418 bars indefinitely, and the understanding was that, they remain closed so long as they are nothygienic.It is hard to believethat Mr Sudheeran does not know all the above facts. One has to appreciate thepatience and verance exhibited by chief minister Oommen Chandy in thematter, which has today resulted in asolution in the bar issue. Unlike Mr Sudheeran, whose atude had even threatened to tarnish the image of the chiefminister and other partymen, Mr OommenChandy has adopted a mature andforgiving atude in the matter, inspite of knowing very well that Mr Sudheeran was misleading the people allalong in the bar issue. The real reason for the chief minister to moot completeprohibition of liquor in the state, ishis sincere wish to solve the issue andnothing political, as made out by themedia. It should be remembered that, theSupreme court has held categorically in the case of State of Kerala Vs Surendra Das and others mentioned above, that the Kerala state government cannot just restrict and shut down a few bars in theprivate sector, when liquor is notprohibited in the state and the same is being sold in government outletsalso, with new outlets being opened by the government. The poor chief ministerwho knew all along that he and hisgovernment is legally bound by the above supreme court judgment, has adopted this extreme method ofproposing a total ban, to get over thedictate of the supreme court in the above case, and thus arrive at a solution in the matter and appease the stubbornSudheeran also, who appears to be trying to create an image for himself. In order to avert the dangerous situation whereby, spurious liquor may flood the state resultingin liquor tragedies in case of a suddenban on liquor, the chief minister hasvery prudently sought to impose the total liquor ban, over a period of ten years. Oommen Chandy has also announced certainpractical measures like reducing the of hard liquor which has been mootedby many commissions appointed by the state to study liquor consumption, whichwill have the effect of reducing the badeffects of consumption of liquor to a certain extent. He has at the same time pledged to sauardthe traditional toddy tapping industry in the state. Therefore, the chief minister has tried his level best to get over the supreme court judgement, at the same timetaking note of practical difficultiesthat may arise, while seeking to bringdown the consumption of liquor. This shows his sincerity and thehonest atude that he has adopted in this issue. Contrast that with theatude of Mr Sudheeran. Only an individual like Oommen Chandywould tolerate such behaviour from the president of his own party. Of course, it remains to be seen whetherthe court will accept the decision of the government to close down thesebars. It is likely that the court mayfeel that the decision to close down these bars is rather hasty as the stategovernment is implementing the ban on liquor in the state only in a phased manner. Just like the proposed ban on liquor in the state, is reasonably sought to beimplemented, only in the next ten years, the number of bars also, could have been reduced by the state in aphased manner, were it not for the unreasonable stubbornness exhibited by Mr Sudheeran in the matter. The funny thing in this w issue isthat, even the media has not done it’shomework well, with the result that the public has beensadly misinformed in this w issue.
    Reply
    1. M
      mohan
      Aug 22, 2014 at 9:48 am
      Moderate alcohol consumption is healthy, especially for older adults having risk factors for heart disease. Consuming bad quality liquor can inebriate a person faster and tilt his balance and can make him an addict. In 1996, then CM AK Antony banned arrack. But statistics show that money spent on the costlier India-made foreign liquor by Malaylees has gone up by more than 18 times in the past 18 years. The pity is that the same low quality booze is bottled afresh with new golden labels. The same 2-star liquor is sold at Five star hotels at rates that are more than three times of a Two star bar. Attappady is the only region in Kerala where there is a complete ban on liquor, being imposed by the state government in April 1995. Since then, virtually every tribal settlement there has turned into an illicit liquor centre. A lot of tribal children are malnourished because men are fully addicted by taking the BAD quality illicit liquor and woman has to do everything to bring up the family. What the government should do is to impose very strict quality check on liquor and more harsh punishments for selling adulterated drinks. Very good quality liquor should be made available every where. Remember that a high-caliber product does not make a person addict
      Reply