Kerala

No logic in Kerala bar closure: SC

The Kerala government's new liquor policy to shut down 730 bars across the State is scheduled to be implemented from September 12, 2014. A Thiruvananthapuram bar gives a solemn reminder of what is in store for bars in the coming days. Photo: S. Gopakumar

The Kerala government's new liquor policy to shut down 730 bars across the State is scheduled to be implemented from September 12, 2014. A Thiruvananthapuram bar gives a solemn reminder of what is in store for bars in the coming days. Photo: S. Gopakumar  

The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the "logic" behind the Kerala government's new liquor policy to shut down 730 bars across the State, branding them as "sub-standard", while letting watering holes in five-star hotels function without any restriction.

"There is no logic. What do you mean sub-standard? I am a teetotaller, but even I see no logic... how do you distinguish here?" Justice Anil R. Dave asked the State government.

The policy is scheduled to be implemented from September 12.

Meanwhile, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court has agreed to hear the affected bar owners against the policy on September 18.

Bar owners approached the Supreme Court to stay the implementation of the policy till the High Court decides on its legality.

In an urgent mentioning to stop the State from enforcing the liquor policy from Friday, a battery of senior counsel for the bar owners termed the policy "discriminatory".

"What are they trying to attain? Prohibition? Five-star hotels, toddy shops will all function... only certain establishments will be cut off," senior advocate Aryaman Sundaram, a counsel for bar owners, submitted before the Bench.

Appearing for the State, senior advocate Kapil Sibal countered that bar owners' right to sell liquor is not a fundamental right. He said this step was taken as part of a policy decision. Mr. Sibal said the bar licences can be cancelled at any time.

Senior advocate Rajiv Dhavan, also appearing for bar owners, submitted that till now there was no such distinction in grant of bar licences among three, four and five-star hotels. He said the owners should be permitted to operate their licences for the entire period of its validity till March 31, 2015.

"There are people employed in these bars, hotels are running on their basis, lakhs are going to be at the receiving end of this policy. This is only the tip of the iceberg," Mr. Sundaram said.

He suggested that there is a motive behind the closure of certain bars, which has nothing to do with prohibition at all.

"With what the policy does, a man who wants to drink can go to a toddy shop," the senior counsel said.

The Bench agreed to hear the petitions on September 11 in detail. It cautioned the government to not "precipitate anything by tomorrow".

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Printable version | Sep 28, 2020 9:01:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/supreme-court-to-kerala-government-no-coercive-action-against-bar-owners/article6397136.ece

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