The liquor policy of the government spearheaded by Sudheeran and backed by the Chief Minister aiming to shut down the liquor shops and curb the consumption of alcohol has finally got a partial approval from the High Court.
The new liquor policy has been a hot topic of debate and social, religious and political outfits have come forward backing and opposing the policy. A single bench chaired by Justice Surendra Mohan allowed four star bars to function and ordered all the two and three star bars to be closed with immediate effect allowing only a total of 62 bars in the state. Now liquor would be available in 8 heritage and 33 four-star hotels besides the 21 five star hotel bars that are already permitted to function in the state as per the liquor policy. The Court ruling came after considering the 83 pleas submitted by the bar owners against the closure of the bars as well as the by the several outfits and the Catholic Bishops Conference challenging the government decision to alter the policy. Despite the government order to close down all the bars below the specified standard before September 12, the bar owners had sought permission from the Court to keep the bars open till the High Court verdict.
The UDF government had come forward with the policy on April 1of gradually closing down the alcohol outlets by 10 % every year and to make Sundays, ‘dry’ days. It was a bold and commendable move and was widely backed by the public, particularly women. Drinking related issues hiked up leading to accidents, sexual abuses against women and children and shattering of families. Despite the oppositions from the liquor lobby and even from the ruling party, the government went ahead with the decision. The Beverages Corporation informed the High Court of a decrease in alcohol consumption with 1 % and 6 % reduction in the liquor and beer sales respectively.
Kerala being a state with the highest per capita consumption of liquor in the country with people emptying their pockets into the liquor shops and beverages outlets frequently, a total liquor prohibition is near to impossible. A closure of the outlets on the other hand would lead to a huge loss of revenue putting pressure on the economy along with the chances of illegal spirit flowing in the state. With the High Court only partially approving the liquor policy and permitting the four and five star hotel bars to function, the government should adopt an uncompromising stand prohibiting further opening of new bars and alcohol outlets. The existing hurdles already standing in the way of achieving a complete dry state, the government should focus on implementing the law as well as ensuring the safety and interests of the public.