High Court paves way to Liquor Prohibition in Kerala [Read the Judgment]
The Kerala High Court upheld the liquor ban in Kerala State in view of the revised Abkari Policy of the Government of Kerala. Through the revised abkari policy, the Kerala government had limited sale of liquor to five-star bar hotels and government-run retail outlets. The High Court, 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. Two and three-star hotels form the majority of the bar restaurants in the state.
The High Court interfered with the government's decision and ruled in favour of four-star bar hotels and heritage hotels stating that the government didn't consider the recommendations of the one-man commission report and also holding that 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 High Court declared that in such circumstances, the government's decision was arbitrary and is in violation of right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution of India and the abkari policy will stand modified to that extent.
The Judgment which runs to 137 pages says: "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,"
Read the Judgment here.