Giving its approval to the state government's new liquor policy, Kerala high court declined on Wednesday to stay the closure of over 700 bar hotels below five star categories. A division bench comprising justice Thothathil B Radhakrishnan and justice P B Suresh Kumar declined to stay the operation of the order culminating in the closure of bar hotels while dismissing a batch of appeals from bar owners.
The government had earlier declined to renew the licenses of 418 bar hotels as they were not up to the standards. The bar owners whose licenses had not been renewed and 312 bar hotels who were ordered to close down had filed appeals. The bench held that the bar owners could not make any prima facie case and they were not entitled for stay of government decision. The court rejected their plea that the policy was 'hatched overnight'. Advocate general KP Dandapani informed the court that the government's excise policy had been mentioned in the UDF manifesto itself. So, supporting materials are there is to justify the government action. The court also approved the argument of advocate general that there are sufficient materials to justify the government order. The bench held that the government action was in accordance with the direction of Supreme Court as well as recommendations of justice M Ramachandran Commission, appointed by the government. The UDF government has stated that its new liquor policy, which makes it clear that only five star hotels will have bars to sell Indian Made Foreign Liquor, was in the final phase to take the UDF'S goal of taking the state to total prohibition in the next 10 years.