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SC upholds Kerala liquor policy: Bars to operate only in 5-star hotels

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Kerala’s new liquor policy restricting sale and consumption of liquor at bars in five star hotels only.

The judgment pronounced by the bench of Justice Vikramajit Sen and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh means that hundreds of restaurants and bars in the state cannot sell liquor. Many of them have been converted to beer and wine parlours after the state government announced the new policy.

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The verdict was reserved on August 27 after long arguments spread over many days wherein the Kerala government, defending its policy, had said that those ousted from the business had no fundamental right to continue selling liquor at their bars.

The batch of petitions by the Kerala Bar Hotel Association and others had contended that the new policy discriminated against other hotels.

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The liquor policy restricting the sale and consumption of liquor at the bar benefited 24 five-star hotels in the state and it was upheld by the Kerala High Court on March 31.

The apex court verdict on the Kerala liquor policy which seeks to take away from the common man the means to buy liquor at the bars may have bearing on attempts by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to curb the sale of liquor in his state in a phased manner.

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Defending the ban on serving liquor at bars in hotels below the five star category, the Kerala government had contended that liquor was available in retail outlets for people to buy and drink at their homes.

The apex court on September 11, 2014, had asked Kerala High Court to decide on petititions directing bar owners below the five star category to shut shop. The high court , in its March 31 order upheld the policy, terming drinking at bars a luxury.

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The Indian Telegraph Sydney Australia

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