New Delhi, (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday told the Kerala Bar Hotels Association, whose members have been ousted from business following new liquor policy restricting bars in five star hotels only that selling and serving liquor at bars was not a fundamental right.
A bench of Justice Vikramajit Sen and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh said that the business flowed from the statute regulating sale of liquor which is subject to change.
“You have no fundamental right to carry on the business of liquor bars,” said the court as senior counsel C.A.Sundaram appearing for the Association contended that the new policy that permitted five star hotels to sell and serve liquor was discriminatory.
Assailing the policy, he said the enforcement of the new liquor policy was inconsistent with the objectives it seeks to achieve to reduce production and availability of liquor in the state and gradually make it liquor free.
The court was told that while bars at the hotels below five star have been asked to pull down shutters, on the other hand, liquor was freely available at retail outlets.
Stressing the dichotomy in the policy, Sundaram told that a person can’t have a drink at the bar of a hotel below a five star but the same person can buy liquor from a retail outlet, hire a room in a lesser star hotel and have drinks with his friends and then check out.
At this, Justice Singh observed that “it may be that the objective of the policy is to discourage drinking”.
Pointing holes in the policy, Sundaram said that under new policy, there would be progressive reduction in the number of shops selling liquor by 10 percent every year but there is “no curb on production and the availability” of liquor.
Citing Rule 13 of the liquor policy that deals with promotion of tourism, Sundaram said that for this objective, the state was preventing his client from continuing in business.
“Liquor shops have become old day cinema halls where there used to be long queues for tickets,” Sundaram told the court pointing out that “one good thing is that five star have brought down the liquor prices in line with the policy to cut profits and increase sales”.
Hearing will continue on Friday.