The Kerala High Court has refused to intervene in the controversial decision of the state government to close all bars, with the exception of the ones in five star hotels, by rejecting the petition filed by the bar hotel owners challenging the new liquor policy. A division bench of the court on Wednesday said that liquor trade is not a fundamental right and refused an interim stay on the government order asking hotel owners to close bars on September 12.
Some days earlier the Congress-led United Democratic Front government took a decision to make Kerala alcohol-free in 10 years as it felt that alcohol abuse was becoming a danger to society. The government on last Tuesday submitted the new Abkari policy, which envisages closure of bars and liquor-free Kerala in a phased manner. Kerala had 753 bar hotels of which 418 were closed last April.
The 312 bars in Kerala which are now open will remain open till the end of the Onam festival season. Issue of notices to the bar hotels have commenced and 15 days time will be allowed to close the counters. After the closure of bars, the excise department would take back the remaining stock of the liquor.
The state has a per capita consumption of liquor, 8.3 litres a year and selling liquor is major revenue for the state. The bar hotel industry, which directly employees 25,000 persons, has a business of R1,500 crore. Last year, the industry has contributed R2,300 crore to the state exchequer in the form of licence fee, excise duty and sales tax.