Kerala govt files affidavit in High Court over 'vow' on liquor prohibition

Kerala Government on Tuesday informed the High Court that it was its 'avowed' policy to reduce liquor consumption in the state.

hidden September 16, 2014 18:43:47 IST
Kerala govt files affidavit in High Court over 'vow' on liquor prohibition

Kochi: Kerala Government on Tuesday informed the High Court that it was its 'avowed' policy to reduce liquor consumption in the state stage by stage and to achieve the goal of total Prohibition within a 10 year span.

Kerala govt files affidavit in High Court over vow on liquor prohibition

Kerala government has banned the sale of alcohol from non-five-star hotels. AFP

The submission in this regard was made in a counter affidavit filed on the direction of the Supreme Court on a batch of appeals filed by 312 bar owners, challenging the government decision to close down over 300 bar hotels.

Government had also declined to renew licenses of 418 sub standard bars.

The Apex Court had disposed of the cases after directing the High Court to hear the matter by 30 September and directed the state government to file affidavit on 16 September.

In a nine-page affidavit, Government also stated that the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) in its Election manifesto itself had made it clear that production and distribution of foreign liquor with high alcohol content would be reduced stage by stage and that the Udayabhanu commission report would be implemented in full.

After coming to power, government had declared that no new licences for three star hotels would be permitted from 31 March, 2012 and that of four star hotels would be permitted only upto March 2013.

The state had also appointed a one-man commission on 23 March, last year to submit a report with regard to the new Abkari policy to be taken by the government, it said.

No new licences had been granted by the Government except on court intervention. Similarly, no new bar licenses were issued to Beverages Corporation or Consumerfed to open new outlets. Local self government institutions were permitted to decide on whether they should be given licences for opening Abkari shops within their jurisdiction. The working time of bar hotels was also reduced by government besiding raising the age limit to purchase liquor from 18-21 years.

Several initiatives were taken to propagate prohibition and educate people on the harmful effect of consuming alcohol so as to desist from its consumption, it was submitted.

The government declared its Abkari policy for 2014-15 in its August 22 2014 order and made necessary amendments in the Foreign Liquor rules in consonance with the new policy on 27 August. Hence, the action taken by government was in accordance with law after complying with all statutory formalities, it was submitted.

The petitioner's contention that the Government Order cannot be issued under the orders of the Governor without the Cabinet recommendation was incorrect as the cabinet had ratified the order. There was no violation of Article 163 of the Constitution, it was submitted.

Pointing out that the present liquor policy does not violate Article 14 of the Constitution and there was no discrimination among a class of persons to warrant interference of the court, the government said the state, while formulating its policy, has exercised statutory powers and applied them uniformly.

The government submitted that the state has the power to completely prohibit the manufacture, sale, possession, distribution and consumption of liquor as it is 'inherently dangerous' to human health.

The concern about possible failure of enforcement measures would be taken care of and be strengthened to avoid widespread bootlegging and sale of illicit liquor.

Directions had been given to officials of Excise, Revenue, Police and Forests departments to conduct joint raids state-wide to curb illegal manufacture of liquor. Stringent steps are being taken to strengthen the Excise checkposts.

The government's decision to permit bar license to hotels having five star and above category was legal and in accordance with the Constitution, government submitted.

A division bench of the High Court had on 3 September given its approval to the new liquor policy and declined to stay the closure of over 700 bar hotels in the state following which appeals were filed in the Apex Court.

PTI

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