The state government should seriously consider restricting the consumption and sale of liquor in the state, the Kerala High Court said on Thursday. It also asked it to limit the functioning of the bars in the state till 5 pm.
The court observed that the only way to reduce liquor consumption is to make available liquor only at limited periods in all bar hotels. “To accomplish the objective of reduction in consumption, not only sale of liquor should be prohibited until 5 pm by bar hotels, but consumption during working time as well should be prohibited providing for punishment even for consumers,” the court held.
A Division Bench comprising Justice C N Ramachandran Nair and Justice C K Abdul Rehim said that as it was a matter of government policy, it hoped that the state would take note of the views of the court and take a final decision.
The Kerala High Court had earlier asked the state to consider prohibiting consumption of liquor before 5 pm in the state. However, the government said that a policy decision can be taken by the government after consultation with stakeholders and assessing the needs of society.
The bench said that even though the government has accepted the suggestion of the court that the prohibition of liquor sale during day time will certainly reduce the consumption, the government has sought time to take a decision. It also pointed out that the state is very sensitive to the court expressing views on abkari policy.
The bar owners said that their businesses will be affected and hotels exclusively serving foreign tourists holding only beer parlour licence will be worst hit. However, the court expressed the hope that the government would have no difficulty in drawing a distinction between hotels serving mainly foreign tourists and to exempt them even when regular bar hotels are prohibited from functioning during day time up to 5 pm.
The Bench observed that it was common knowledge that only alcoholics need to have drinks in the morning and during daytime.
The bar owners raised concern that keeping open the Beverages Corporation outlet during day time will defeat the purpose of closure of bars. The court said that its suggestion was mainly for prohibiting consumption during working hours. So the sale of liquor in bottles during day time will not stand in the way of prohibition of loose sale in bar hotels for ready consumption.
The court also dismissed all appeals challenging a single judge’s verdict striking down as illegal section 28(1) of the Foreign Liquor Rules that came up for hearing. As per the amendment, FL-3 hotels functioning within a panchayat or municipality should not be kept open before 8 am and after 11 pm.