Thursday, October 30, 2014

HC upholds ban on liquor in Kerala

The high court on Thursday upheld the ban on liquor in the state, in view of the state government's revised abkari policy.

The court ruling, however, allowed four-star and heritage bar hotels to remain open. But, the court did not allow the petitions filed by two and three-star hotels as well as unclassified bar hotels.

Through the abkari policy, the stat government had limited sale of liquor to five-star bar hotels and government-run retail outlets.

Three and two-star hotels form the majority of the bar restaurants in the state.

Interfering with the government's decision and ruling in favour of four-star bar hotels and heritage hotels, justice K Surendra Mohan said the government didn't consider the recommendations of the one-man commission report and consideration of its recommendations are not reflected in the revised abkari policy.

Therefore, the government had no material to make the classification regarding limiting sale of liquor to five-star hotels, the court said.

The court declared that in such circumstances, the government's decision was arbitrary and in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution (Right to equality) and the abkari policy will stand modified to that extent.

"Though the abkari policy proclaims that it has been issued considering the One Man Commission Report and the report of the secretary (taxation), except for a passing reference, no consideration of the recommendations of the Commission is available in the policy. It is no doubt true that the government is not bound by the recommendations of the One Man Commission. However, the government should have at least stated that it was rejecting the recommendations. The abkari policy 2014-15 ignores the recommendations of the One Man Commission altogether. Therefore, it has to be held that there was absolutely no material before the government for the classification that has been adopted, of picking out hotels having five star classification and above for the purpose of the preferential treatment of granting FL-3 licences or bar licences," the 137-page judgment stated.

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