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SC upholds Kerala liquor ban

Tue 29 Dec 2015, 12:48:07
The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the Kerala government’s liquor policy that allows only bars in five-star hotels to serve liquor, effectively shutting down business for small bar owners in the state.
A bench headed by Justice Vikramjit Sen dismissed a clutch of petitions by the Kerala Bar Hotels Association that challenged the classification. The petitioners had moved the apex court after the Kerala high court found no fault with the policy in March this year, which made illegal the serving of liquor at bar hotels ranked lower than five stars. The verdict means only 24 five-star hotels in the state would have the license to serve Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL).
The judgment, reserved in August, comes a day before Justice Sen is due to retire as a Supreme Court judge. During the hearing of the appeals, the bench had noted that selling and serving liquor at bars was not a fundamental right.
The bench, which also comprised Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, had said the business flowed from the statute regulating sale of liquor which is subject to change.
“You have no fundamental right to carry on the business of liquor bars,” it had countered the argument of the association’s counsel, senior advocate CA Sundaram which claimed the new policy was discriminatory. The counsel further assailed the policy, saying its enforcement was inconsistent with the objectives it sought to achieve -- to reduce production and availability of liquor in the state and gradually make it liquor free – as liquor would still be available at retail outlets.
Implemented in August 2014, the new policy allows 300 odd-bars to operate as retail outlets.
Upholding the policy, the HC had on March 31 observed it could not intervene in executive decisions, which were aimed at public welfare.
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