The Kerala High Court on Tuesday said the state government should amend the Kerala Abkari Act (liquor Act) so that the new liquor policy stands legal scrutiny. The division bench was responding to a petition filed by bar owners challenging the government’s decision to close all bars with the exception of 20 in five star hotels.
Late last week the United Democratic Front government had taken a decision to make Kerala alcohol-free in 10 years as it felt alcohol abuse was becoming a danger to society. The government on Tuesday submitted the new Abkari policy, which envisages closure of bars and a liquor-free Kerala in a phased manner. Two weeks back, the court had asked the government to submit its liquor policy and examine qualitatively all the 418 bars that were shut down.
The government told the court it could not complete the examination of all the closed bars and hence sought time. The court posted the case to for September 17.
Meanwhile, state excise minister K Babu told the media that all the 312 bars in Kerala which are now open will remain open till the end of the Onam season. Issuance of notices to the bar hotels will commence from this Thursday and 15 days time will be allowed to close the counters. After the closure of bars, the excise department would take back the remaining liquor stock.
The government had decided to shut the bars down on Tuesday, but pro-prohibition organizations questioned the move, which, according to them, would help the bar hotel owners to move the court. Hence, acting upon legal advice, the government decided to issue notices to bar owners.