Right to privacy—if right to take intoxicating drinks were one— always subject to reasonable restrictions, the bench held.
The Kerala High Court has dismissed a challenge against the government’s liquor policy, observing that the laws prohibiting alcoholic drinks will not fall foul of the fundamental rights guaranteed to a citizen.
Anoop MS had challenged the policy on the ground that there is no provision in the Abkari Act that empowers the government to prohibit liquor, even in a phased manner. As the single bench dismissed his writ petition observing that the apex court upheld the policy and hence it needs no interference, he approached the division bench in appeal.
His appeal against the single bench order was heard by the Bench comprising Justice PR Ramachandra Menon and Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu.
Though the bench dismissed the appeal, the 45-page judgment discusses the issue in detail.
The judgment authored by Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu mainly dealt with the contention that consumption of liquor is a personal choice, a facet of right to privacy and right to be let alone, and the liquor policy of the government violates it.
The court dealt with many precedents cited by the counsel vis-à-vis the right to privacy and observed: “We find no proposition that right to privacy is unfettered and that it brooks no restrictions—even reasonable ones, at that. We regret that none lays down that privacy, an individual right, prevails over the social welfare, a collective right.”
The court also said that the directive principles have been accorded with a ‘pride of place’ by the constitutional courts. “Common good takes the lead and subordinates the individual’s inclinations, unless the fundamental right affected is nothing short of quintessence of the individual’s being, his existence,” the bench said.
The court further observed that Article 21 has been given a liberal, progressive treatment by the constitutional courts, such rights , is never unrestrained, much less unregulated. As with all other rights, right to privacy—if right to take intoxicating drinks were one— always subject to reasonable restrictions, the court said.
As a parting comment, the bench said: “What is today morally reprehensible and socially unacceptable may not be so tomorrow. Anoop, the appellant, may still have hope, but he seems to have raised his voice rather prematurely.”
Justice Naidu concluded the Judgment with the following lines of Bob Dylan, the Nobel laureate:“[A]nd don't speak too soonFor the wheel's still in spinAnd there's no telling who that it's namingFor the loser now will be later to winCause the times they are a-changing”
Read the Judgment here.
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