NEW DELHI: Observing that phased prohibition would be suitable for Kerala, the Supreme Court asked whether the “rift between Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Pradesh Congress Committee president V M Sudheeran resulted in the formulation of the State’s liquor policy.
The observation from a bench came while hearing the petition of bar owners, challenging the State governments liquor policy confining bar licences only to five star hotels.
The bar owners’ association had moved the apex court against a Kerala High Court order, which upheld the State government restricting bar licenses only to five star hotels.
During the hearing, the bench also made it clear to the bar owners, saying “A bar license, by no means, is a fundamental right.”
“Long queues at beverage outlets will discourage youngsters from buying alcohol and overall alcohol consumption will come down with a fall in supply,” the court observed.
On this, senior advocate Aryama Sundaram, appearing for Bar owners said, “The State is not justifying their policy on the ground of prohibition. The State can enforce total prohibition but if it does not, then they are bound to treat everyone equally.”
The Kerala government in its order earlier had stated that it was decided to close all the bars in the state except in five-star hotels as part of its new liquor free policy, by 2014.
The state had maintained that its avowed policy was to reduce consumption of liquor in the state stage by stage and to achieve the goal of total prohibition within a 10 year span.
The Supreme Court also questioned the logic behind categorising bars in hotels as five-star, four-star and three-star for issuing licences to sell liquor.
Earlier, the Kerala High Court had ordered to renew licences to 10 hotels, but the government did not implement the order and decided to approach the Supreme Court.
Kerala had 753 bar hotels, of which 418 were closed in April last year. Fourteen per cent of the liquor manufactured in the country is consumed in Kerala.
The hearing remained inconclusive and will continue.