Reminding all state governments that the Constitution places a responsibility on them to “at least contain, if not curtail, consumption of alcohol”, the Supreme Court today approved Kerala’s new liquor policy that prohibits drinking in public and restricts serving of alcohol to five-star hotels.
A bench of Justices Vikramjit Sen and Shiva Kirti Singh held that “strict state regulation is imperative” to discourage regular and excessive consumption of alcohol. Hence, it said, not granting bar licences to hotels other than five-star establishments has to be viewed as a “positive step towards bringing down the consumption of alcohol, or as preparatory to prohibition”.
It underlined: “The court cannot be blind to the fact that a social stigma at least as far as the family unit is concerned is still attached to the consumption of alcohol. Free trade in alcohol denudes family resources and reserves and leaves women and children as its most vulnerable victims.”
Dismissing a clutch of petitions filed by hotels and their associations against the new policy, the bench was unequivocal: “We find no illegality or irrationality with the intention of the State to clamp down on public consumption of alcohol…the impugned policy, therefore, is to be encouraged and is certainly not to be struck down or discouraged by the courts.”