The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the logic behind Kerala government’s new liquor policy for limiting bar licences to only five-star hotels and asked the state government not to enforce its order prohibiting the functioning of non-five-star hotel bars till Thursday.
A bench of Justices A R Dave and U U Lalit will on Thursday take up for hearing a batch of petitions challenging the ban order by the state government, which was issued as part of a move to implement total prohibition in the state in 10 years.
“What is the logic behind this? We don’t see any logic behind this,” remarked the bench as it agreed to grant an urgent hearing to the aggrieved owners of hotels.
It told the state government not to take any coercive step against them as the bars were directed to be shut down from Thursday.
A bunch of top lawyers, including senior advocates Fali S Nariman, Ram Jethmalani, Rajeev Dhavan, C A Sundaram and Arvind Dattar, appeared for various hotels and made a strong plea to the court for staying the policy.
Under the new policy, the UDF government had last month decided to shut around 700 bars attached to hotels below five-star categories.
The petitions have described the move as discriminatory, besides an unlawful curtailment of their right to earn livelihood by carrying out their trade.
Decision will be implemented, says KPCC chief
With a day left for the closure of all liquor bars, except those in the five-start category, Congress state president V M Sudheeran said the decision would be implemented courageously.
Sudheeran, who had pressured the government into ordering the closure of 730-odd liquor bars in the state, said the international liquor business groups were behind the campaign against the Kerala government’s decision. “The liquor groups are shocked at the government’s move. The decision to close down the bars was taken for the cause of the public. The loss of revenue from the liquor business is insignificant if the social gains were considered,’’ said Sudheeran.
As per the government decision, 312 hotels in Kerala will close liquor business on Thursday night. Another 418 have been closed since April after their liquor licence was not renewed.
Meanwhile, Sudheeran toughened his stand on beer and wine parlours, saying they will not be exempted from closure. As per the UDF decision, the beer and wine parlours will have to close down. There is no move to grant new licence for beer parlours, he said. However, Excise Minister K Babu said as per the UDF recommendation, there was no decision to close the beer parlours.