KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Monday said that it does not want to interfere in the proposed Abkari policy of the state government at this stage and adjourned the hearing of the cases to Tuesday. The Single Judge made the observation while considering the petitions filed by the owners of Hotel Airlink Castle, Nedumbassery, Hotel Elegance, Kannur, Hotel Meriya, Wayanad, and others challenging the decision of the state government.
“The court cannot interfere in government policy under presumption and the new Abkari policy is yet to be published,” the Bench observed.
Special Government Pleader Tom K Thomas submitted that the state has in-principle taken a decision to close down 312 bars and not to renew the licences of 418 bars in the state. But the government is yet to finalise the mode of implementation.
Counsel for the proprietors of Hotel Airlink sought to declare that the action of forfeiture of the FL3 licence which is valid up to March 31, 2015, to run a 4-star hotel with bar facility for tourists, is wholly void, and violative of the provisions of the Kerala Abkari Act.
Under Section 26 of the Abkari Act, a licence can be recalled only on satisfying the conditions prescribed therein, none of which admittedly has arisen.
Rule 36 of the Foreign Liquor Rules also provides that “The Excise Commissioner may, upon giving 15 days notice, revoke any licence, in which case a proportionate part of the fee paid by the licensee shall be refunded to him.”
It also pointed out that the Supreme Court had made it clear that there was no distinction between 5 Star and 4 Star while granting FL3 licence. The petitioners further submitted that the policy taken by the state government is illegal. The prohibition was not applicable to the liquor outlets run by the Kerala State Beverages Corporation, hence it’s a discrimination.
About 70 per cent of the sale of liquor in the state is through the Bevco outlets, they pointed out.
They also stated that the proposed policy will not be applicable to the clubs serving liquor.
“Implementation of the policy will result in widespread bootlegging and sale of contraband liquor. The policy will be destructive to the state’s tourism sector,” the petitioners submitted.
The court observed that the state cannot provide everything the tourists want. “We have our own culture. Those who visit the state may have their own choice, but it cannot be entertained,” it said.
A Division Bench of the High Court will consider the appeals filed by the bar owners challenging the decision not to renew the licences of 418 non-standard bars, on Tuesday. The court had directed the government to examine the standard of the bars and directed it to file a report.