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Kerala High Court asks state government to make new liquor policy into law

In more bad news for liquor lovers in ‘God’s own country’, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday directed the state government to make its new liquor policy limiting bar licenses to just 5 star hotels into a law.

The state government on Tuesday informed the court about its new liquor policy by which it plans to make the state alcohol-free in the next 10 years. The court asked the state to take further steps in making the new policy into a law.

According to the United Democratic Front (UDF) government’s new liquor policy, 418 bars that have been closed down over poor facilities will not be issued fresh licenses and licenses of remaining 312 bars will also not be renewed.

Adding to it, the government has also decided to issue notices to hoteliers below the five-star category to shut their bars by September 12.

Briefing the media after the meeting that worked out the action plan on the UDF’s policy decision taken last week, Excise Minister K Babu said notices would be issued to hoteliers on August 28, asking them to wind up liquor sales within 15 days.

As part of the procedures under the Abkari rules, unsold stockpile of IMFL from closed bars would be taken back by the state Beverages Corporation (Bevco), the state agency having monopoly over liquor retailing in the state.

Similarly, the part of the licence fee for the remaining eight months of the current financial year would be returned to the bar owners.

The total amount to be shelled out for this would be around Rs. 40 crore and the modalities would be discussed and finalised by the cabinet tomorrow, the minister said.

The issue had for long been a source of dissension in the Congress and UDF in the state with sections of the leadership pressing for a practical approach towards the bar imbroglio. Chief Minister Ommen Chandy had laid down the new proposals, marking a critical departure from the liquor policy followed by the UDF and LDF over the decades.

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