NEW DELHI:The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its judgement on a bunch of pleas against the Kerala High Court decision upholding the state government’s liquor policy of issuing bar licences to five and three star hotels.
The bench headed by Justice Vikramjit Sen reserved the verdict after all the parties concluded their arguments in the case. The bar owners, in their plea, contended that the policy was discriminatory in nature and would lead to a situation where only the well-heeled have access to alcohol. However, the Kerala government argued that the decision taken by the state not to renew licences was a policy decision.
The bench also suggested that State implement alcohol prohibition in a phased manner. The High Court had upheld the state government’s liquor policy granting licences to beer and wine parlours, resulting in the shut down of 300 bars. The Kerala government had opposed the move by bar owners that it had been its avowed policy 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 private bar owners contended that the policy was discriminatory in nature. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the bar owners, reiterated bar owner’s stand that the policy would lead to a situation where only the well-heeled have access to alcohol.
On October 30, 2014, the Kerala High Court had upheld the state government’s decision to close down more than 700 bars, but had exempted heritage and four-star hotels. 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, according to reports.