KOCHI: The state government on Thursday informed the Kerala High Court that limiting the grant of FL3 licence to three-star hotels and above is within the state policy domain.The state made it clear that three-star or above classification will be entitled to renewal of FL3 licence. The affidavit was filed in response to a petition filed by the Kerala Bar Hotels Association challenging the new abkari policy denying the renewal of FL3 licence to two-star hotels with bar facility.
According to the petitioners, they had two-star facilities specified by the State Tourism Department and bar facility in their hotels until March 31, 2014. However, the bars in two-star hotels were closed following the abrupt cancellation of bar licences of hotels below five-star category by the UDF Government in 2014. Now, the petitioners are continuing with ‘Beer and Wine’ facilities in their hotels. The LDF Government declared the new abkari policy granting licence only to the hotels having valid three stars and above classification, leaving out two-star hotels.
The present act of the government denying renewal facility is highly discriminatory and a violation of the fundamental rights of the petitioners enshrined under Article 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India, the plea stated.The state said barring hotels below a particular classification to sell liquor will not amount to hostile discrimination. Hotels with different star classification cannot be treated as a single homogenous group. The classification now made is within state policy domain. The contention of the petitioner that government should have allowed the renewal of FL3 licences of all hotels, which had FL3 licences as on March 31, 2014, is not sustainable in law, it stated.