Kerala government’s controversial new liquor policy suffered a setback on Thursday with the Supreme Court saying that it is not practical while refusing to stay a high court order allowing for renewed licences to ten hotels. The apex court also questioned the logic behind the new liquor policy categorising bar hotels as five-star, four-star and three-star hotels for issuing bar licences. Earlier, the Kerala HC had ordered to renew licences to 10 hotels, but the government did not implement the order and decided to approach the SC.
The government had in 2014 decided to close all the bars in the state with the exception of the ones functioning in the five-star hotels as part of its new liquor free policy which envisages complete prohibition in ten years. Kerala had 753 bar hotels, of which 418 were closed last April. The controversial decision has erupted into a political problem within the Congress and the partners in the United Democratic Front (UDF). Bar owners alleged that the state finance minister had taken money to renew licences of the bar.
Bar owners in Kerala had earlier approached the court challenging the government’s decision to close over 700 bar hotels in the state, arguing that it was discriminatory.