The Kerala high court on Tuesday upheld the liquor policy of the state government and dismissed a petition filed by the Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association, allowing only 24 five-star hotels in the state to serve liquor.
A division bench of Justice KT Shankaran and Justice Babu Mathew P Joseph said drinking liquor was not a fundamental right and the state government has made things very clear in its liquor policy.
The bench said the government has every right to frame policies and when it is done, it is just not the tourism industry that has to be considered, but the society's interest too has to be taken into account.
Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association representatives said they will appeal in the Supreme Court against the high court verdict.
"Today, the high court upheld the government's arguments and hence, we have the next option to approach the Supreme Court. We will be doing it at the earliest," said association president Raj Kumar Unni.
As a result, around 300 bars in the state will now close down with effect from Tuesday midnight.
The state government had to face a series of cases starting in August last year, when it announced as part of its new liquor policy that it had decided to go for total prohibition in 10 years and had given a notice of closure to all the 710 bars in the state, including the 418 that have not opened since April 1, 2014.
Liquor, however, will be available through 344 retail shops owned by the state government.
As soon as the liqor policy was approved in August last year, the association sought legal recourse and it culminated with Tuesday's verdict.
State excise minister K Babu termed the verdict a historic one.
"The government has won the case and the court has accepted our sincerity to our policy. Special thanks are due to former union minister Kapil Sibal who was our counsel. With this, only 24 five-star hotels in the state will serve liquor and around 500 hotels will be serving only beer and wine," Babu told reporters.