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Recently, the Supreme Court upheld the ‘Liquor-Free Kerala’ policy restricting the serving of liquor to five-star hotels in the State. The apex court ruled that the State governments be given a free hand to curtail or ban public consumption of alcohol to protect public health and nutrition.
Before we go into details, let’s see the time-line of Kerala’s Excise Policy
2007 – Kerala govt. started tightening its excise policy to make liquor less-freely available in the state, in the interest of public health. It started a policy where only those hotels that were accorded 3-star or more by Union Govt.’s Ministry of Culture will be given new bar licenses.
2011 – It further tightened the policy by denying licenses to any hotels that were accorded less than 4-star by Union Govt.’s Ministry of Culture. However, those hotels with existing licenses were accorded amnesty, i.e. they were allowed renewal of licenses even if the hotel’s rating was less than 4-star.
2014 – Only hotels classed as 5-star and above by Union Govt.’s Ministry of Culture, will be allowed to serve liquor.
The policy seeks to prohibit the sale and service of alcohol in all public places, except bars and restaurants in five-star hotels. To be precise, only five star hotels are now allowed to serve hard liquor.
Foreign tourists could be satisfied by beer and wine, while the domestic tourism sector will be the most affected as tourists from other states prefer hard liquor.
DPSP also requires state to endeavour for prohibition of intoxicating drinks and drugs, due to the well-known ill-effects on standards of living and public health.
The case is known as The Kerala Bar Hotels Association vs State of Kerala.
The bar associations have argued that the liquor policy violates Art 19(1)(g) and Art 14.
Article 19(1)(g) – To practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
Art 14 – The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
Experts argue that a better idea would be to engage non-state actors to step up the campaign for abstention.
Suggest some better policy alternatives or share some successful case-studies to curb the consumption of liquor.
Published with inputs from Pushpendra
Questioning selective ban:
Trying to neutralize the SC order:
Freedom of choice:
India and its neighbours:
Alcohol consumption probably will never become zero. The right question to ask is not whether prohibition was successful or a failure, but if it reduced alcohol consumption. Moreover, as the Supreme Court judgement says, it is the government’s constitutional duty to make the policy work. The question about prohibition is not if, but how. Make notes for Mains answer as well as Essay on the topic.