In a relief for non-five-star hotel bar owners, the Supreme Court on Thursday restrained the Kerala government from shutting down their bars till September 30, under the state’s new liquor policy that limits bar licences to only five-star hotels.
A bench of Justice Anil R Dave and Justice U U Lalit asked the government not to take any coercive steps against such hotel bars, thereby suspending the operation of the new policy till the end of this month.
The court further directed the Kerala High Court, which is seized of a batch of petitions by the non-five star hotel bar owners, to hear all the aspects of the matter and decide the issue expeditiously.
The bench was also critical of the Kerala government’s policy to ban only non-five star hotel bars and remarked that if the state was so much concerned about the menace of drinking, it should rather take a cue from Gujarat where there is an absolute prohibition.
The state government was ready to start closing such bars as part of a move to implement total prohibition in the state in 10 years.
Under the new policy, the UDF government had in August decided to shut around 700 bars attached to hotels below five-star categories. The petitions have described this move as discriminatory, besides an unlawful curtailment of their right to earn livelihood by carrying out their trade.