High Court rubbishes bar hoteliers’ contentions

The Kerala High Court on Tuesday extended by six weeks the time granted to the government to take a decision on the new Abkari policy.

Justice P.N. Ravindran passed the order on a petition filed by the government seeking more time to come out with a policy decision. The government moved the petition as the time granted by the High Court to take a final policy decision on the renewal of the bar licence to the 418 hotels had expired.

When the petition came up for hearing, the bar hoteliers opposed the plea of the government and submitted that the government was adopting a delaying tactics.

The court then pointed out that the issue related to grant of licence to some bar hotels for selling liquor “which cannot by any stretch of imagination be said to be an essential commodity.” The court said humans could survive even if liquor was not freely and readily available.

The court said the government had to take a serious decision in the matter. In fact, it had also to take into account the concerns expressed by persons from various walks of life. Besides, the government had very many issues such as price rise on its hands to tackle immediately. The issues relating to liquor did not involve any public interest and nothing would happen if the sale of liquor was suspended, the Judge added.

The court observed that the government was also justified in seeking more time in the view of the High Court directive to the government to consider a representation filed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) seeking to prohibit bar hotels within the radius of 200 metres from hospitals.

The government had submitted that a Cabinet meeting held on June 25, 2014 did not consider the bar licence issue. The Assembly was now in session. Therefore, the government could not have a detailed discussion in the matter. As a result, the government decided to defer taking a decision on the recommendation of the Justice M. Ramachandran Commission on the new Abkari policy as well as the directives of the High Court.

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