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HC orders status quo with respect to closure of 250 bars

Kochi: In a relief to owners of bars in small and medium hotels a day after a single judge upheld the state government's decision to close them down, Kerala High Court today permitted 250 bars to function for a month.

A division bench ordered status quo as on October 29 with
regard to the 250 bars while admitting appeals by bar owners
challenging the single judge's order.

Disposing of a batch of 81 petitions which had challenged
the government decision to close down 312 bars attached to
hotels below fivestar ranking, Justice Surendra Mohan had
yesterday upheld the government excise policy for 201415,
paving the way for closure of 700 bars in the state.

The judge, however, gave some reprieve allowing 33 bars in
fourstar and eight in heritage category hotels to function
after the state government had banned bars in all hotels below
fivestar ranking. Besides, 21 bars in fivestar hotels were
allowed to operate by the court.

The government order directing closure was, thus, upheld
in respect of 250 bars.

When the appeals against this order came up today, a bench
comprising Justice Thothathil B Radhakrishanan and Justice
Babu Mathew P Joseph ordered status quo, observing the matter
required "deeper consideration". It posted the matter to
November 14 for hearing.

Earlier, Advocate General, K P Dandapani informed the
bench that the state also was proposing to file an appeal
against the single judge's order (in respect of bars in
fourstar and heritage hotels).

The bench then held that "the nature and grounds in the
appeal deserves deeper investigation. State proposes to file
appeal. The situation needs to be preserved to be continued.
So status quo is needed in relation to the matter as on
October 29, 2014."

The bench also observed that policy matter can be
subjected to judicial scrutiny.

Referring to an observation by the single judge that
students and less affluent sections would not go to fourstar,
heritage and fivestar hotels, the bench orally observed that
it does not agree with this proposition as it amounted to
discrimination among rich and poor.

The bar owners had contended before the single judge that
the government decision to close all bars was taken in "haste"
and would be counter productive as it would lose substantial
revenue from Abkari (excise) business, besides impacting

The Kerala government's stand was that it was its "avowed"
policy to reduce liquor consumption in the state stage by
stage and to achieve the goal of total prohibition within a 10
year span.

Out of the 700 odd bars, the government had earlier
declined to renew the licences of 418 substandard bars and
later decided to close down 312 bars in hotels below fivestar



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