Lashing out at the Kerala government for proposing a partial ban on liquor bars in the state, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the government to ban bars across the state like Gujarat. “If you want to stop it, stop the whole thing in one go like Gujarat. Gujarat is much safer,” the court observed.
In a temporary relief for bar owners, the Supreme Court directed the government not to cancel their licences till September 30. The apex court asked the Kerala High Court to hear the petition challenging the state government’s prohibition policy as soon as possible.
Bar owners in Kerala had filed a plea in the apex court against the state government’s directive. “This is discriminatory. We are not seeking liquor illegally. We have licences. You may choose to not renew our licenses when they expire. But don’t revoke them half way through,” the bar owners told the court.
While the SC quoted the example of Gujarat for being safe after the prohibition of liquor, the bar owners argued that, “when alcohol was banned in the state, people improvised using Pudin Hara and Benadryl.” They also quoted the judgement in the dance bars case.
If the state government’s order to ban bars would have been brought in force, the licences of the owners would have been cancelled by 11 pm on Thursday.
While hearing the case on Wednesday, the bench questioned the logic behind the state government’s new liquor policy for limiting bar licences to only 5-star hotels as part of a move to implement total prohibition in the state in 10 years and agreed to examine it.
A bench of justices AR Dave and UU Lalit had agreed to grant an urgent hearing on a plea of aggrieved owners of hotels and posted the case for Thursday. It asked the state government not to take any coercive step against them as the bars were directed to be shut down from Thursday.
The state government’s move, if implemented, will bring a huge loss of revenue to the state exchequer. The ruling UDF government will be meeting later in the day to decide the further course of action.