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Beer, wine, toddy still classified as liquor

Government to reframe clarification petition in Supreme Court

February 14, 2017 08:55 pm | Updated November 11, 2017 12:18 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram:

The State government will withdraw its “off-target” request in the Supreme Court (SC) to exclude beer, wine, and toddy from the definition of hard liquor.

Top Excise Department officials said the rather impolitic demand had inadvertently crept into the State’s petition seeking more clarity of the apex court order banning the sale of alcohol through licensed premises abutting National and State Highways and adjoining service roads.

The government had requested the Advocate General (AG) to clarify whether the 500-m ban applied only to liquor takeaways or if bars, beer and wine parlours, and toddy shops also came under its purview.

Officials said the government was not privy to the minutiae of the clarification petition filed by AG’s office in the apex court.

Somehow, the politically tactless argument not to bracket beer, wine, and toddy with hard alcohol had sneaked into the petition. It had caught the government by surprise and unwittingly accorded its critics an opportunity to wrong-foot it. The State did not subscribe to such a view.

The error in the petition was merely a technical one and of no legal consequence.

Social risk

The government was conscious of the fact that any attempt to remove alcoholic beverages from the classification of liquor would entail considerable social risk and prompt public resentment.

It would mean that any entity could produce alcoholic beverages without permit and sell them like “home made soft drinks.” There would be no Excise regulation.

Such a move would open the door for large-scale illicit distillation and ultimately roll back years of social progress.

Face closure

However, the government could not shrug off the fact that most bars, beer and wine parlours, and over 1,200 toddy shops faced closure if the apex court insisted that its ban applied across the board to all licensed premises.

If so, the government would have to grapple with the resultant economic downturn, loss of employment, threat of bootleg liquor, increased criminality and black-marketeering.

The apprehension of such eventualities had forced the State to move the apex court seeking more clarity in its far-reaching order.

However, certain quarters misconstrued the State’s plea as a sly move to deregulate the production and sale of alcoholic beverages. The government had no such intention.

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