Kochi (Kerala) [India], Aug 25 (ANI): The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government's decision to open more bars and liquor shops, as opposed to its promise in it's election manifesto to reduce availability, cannot be called outrageous or in total defiance of law, said the Kerala High Court on Monday.
Dismissing a PIL to order the government to reduce availability and consumption of liquor as declared in its policy, a division bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly said the court does not sit as a court of appeal but merely reviews the manner in which a policy decision was taken.
In the judgment, the court said, "In the light of the statutory provisions under the Abkari Act, 1 of 1077, the rules framed thereunder, and keeping in mind the Wednesbury's principles, we are of the view that the action of the respondents (government), in opening more liquor shops/bars/parlours etc., cannot be said to be characterised as outrageous or in total defiance of the statutory provisions."
The petitioner had contended that the government's decision to open up more bars was unreasonable and Wednesbury's principle on unreasonableness applies.
The court further said, "Merely because, more number of shops/bars/parlours are opened, it cannot be said that the fundamental rights of the women and children are affected. While considering the scope of interference by courts in economic matters, public interest cannot be circumscribed only to the rights of women and children. The decision of the government in opening more liquor shops, bars/parlours, cannot be said to be violative of Constitution of India or the statutory provisions. The decision does not suffer from the vice of irrationality.
The wisdom of the policy underlying a statute is a matter for the government, the court said.
"The action of the state government in opening more liquor shops, bars, parlours, cannot be said to be with an oblique motive or indirect object, in the light of the statutory provisions and the rules framed under the Abkari Act. The statute and the rules empower the government to determine the number of liquor shops, areas, and categories eligible for grant of licences," the court pointed out.
"As the state government can have a monopoly in selling liquor, it can adopt any mode of issuing licences to maximize revenue so long as the method is not discriminatory. It cannot direct the state government to legislate law in tune with Article 47, which calls for a prohibition on consumption of intoxicating drinks," the court said. (ANI)