New 3-star hotels can get bar licence

J. Venkatesan
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Supreme Court declines to stay High Court order striking down State liquor rules

Court issues notice to respondents, to take up case after 8 weeksState government told to consider applications for bar licence
The Hindu
Court issues notice to respondents, to take up case after 8 weeksState government told to consider applications for bar licence

The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to stay the Kerala High Court judgment striking down as discriminatory and arbitrary the amendments to the Foreign Liquor Rule, 2011, which deny bar licence to new three-star hotels and prescribe distance norms for sanctioning bar licence to new hotels having four-star rating and above.

A Bench of Justices S.S. Nijjar and H.L. Gokhale declined to stay the judgment on a special leave petition (SLP) filed by the State of Kerala challenging the directions issued by the High Court.

High Court order

The High Court had directed the government to take a decision on the applications filed by the petitioners seeking bar licence. The Bench, reiterating the direction, asked the government to consider the applications and if these were found eligible grant them bar licence within eight weeks. The Bench issued notice to the respondents (petitioners before the High Court) and directed the matter to be listed after eight weeks.

Acting on a batch of writ petitions, the High Court had said that making liquor unavailable in three-star hotels would not achieve the objective of reducing liquor consumption. In fact, when liquor was available in around 400 retail shops of the Kerala State Beverages Corporation and the State Cooperative Consumer Marketing Federation and around 700 bar hotels, the government could not bring down consumption of liquor by denying licence to one class of star hotels. The High Court had said the government could not discriminate between existing three-star hoteliers and new three-star hoteliers as the latter were entitled to equal treatment.

In its SLP, the State raised important question of law, viz. whether the High Court could substitute a policy decision taken by the government, bearing in mind the Directive Principles of state policy envisaged in Article 47 of the Constitution with its own reasoning that the policy was against promoting tourism.

It said the rules were amended to bring in force the Abkari policy of the government primarily intended to bring down sale and distribution of liquor within the State, because, as per the latest statistics, the consumption of liquor in Kerala was the highest. It was also reported that chronic diseases due to excessive consumption of alcohol were on the rise in the State.

Revised policy

Kerala said the revised policy was introduced foreseeing the ill effects of the increasing liquor consumption and with the intention to check this in a phased manner.

It said the High Court had committed an error in assuming mala fides in the policy decision without appreciating the good intention in bringing amendments to the rules. Contending that the amended rules were not discriminatory, the State government sought a direction to quash the impugned judgment and an interim stay of its operation.

  • Court issues notice to respondents, to take up case after 8 weeks

  • State government told to consider applications for bar licence

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