KOCHI: Though the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the liquor policy of the state government,it was an order by the High Court of Kerala that paved the way for enforcing of the liquor policy and closure of bars.
Terming the state government’s intention as a laudable effort, Justice V Chidambaresh in April 2014 had declined to interfere in the decision not to renew the licence of 418 bars on a batch of petitions filed by bar owners seeking a direction to maintain status quo till the legal battle is over.
The 19-month-long legal battle between bar owners and the state government over liquor policy began with the order passed by Justice Chidambaresh. If the High Court then had ordered to maintain the status quo, all bars in the state would have remained open till the final verdict of the Supreme Court.
The petition came up for the consideration of Justice Chidambaresh after Justice C T Ravikumar, who first heard argument on the petitions on liquor policy, later recused from hearing arguments. Justice C T Ravikumar rescued himself from passing orders as Advocate K Thavamony, practising in the High Court, met him at judge’s residence and attempted to discuss the issue.
Dismissing the plea by bar owners, the court had made it clear that bar owners had no fundamental right to carry out liquor business, and it was only a privilege. The court also observed that it was premature for the court to issue a directive to the government to renew bar licences to hotels which did not confirm to four stars and above classification. ‘’The intention of the government was obviously to amend the rules allowing renewal for four stars and above hotels. Hence, it did not find any ground to interfere with the government decision,’’ the order said.
Though the bar owners challenged the Single Judge order before Division Bench of the High Court, the Bench comprising Justice Antony Dominic and Justice Alexander Thomas recused from hearing appeals without citing any specific reason.
The state government framed a new liquor policy in early 2014 on the basis of a report submitted by Justice Ramachandran Commission, which was entrusted with the task of making suggestions to revise the liquor policy.