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The Kerala Bar Hotels Association & Another Versus State of Kerala & Others

2016 (1) TMI 464 - SUPREME COURT

Challenge to Abkari Policy 2014-15 - Judge carved out an exception vis-a-vis the eligibility of Four Star and Heritage category hotels to the grant of FL-3 licence, finding their exclusion to be arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution - Held that:- It is not the State that makes classification of Star Rating so far as hotels are concerned. This is intrinsically modulated by the Tourism Industry and not by the State Government. It seems to us that the impugned policy of eradicat .....

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g or imposing its assessment of the policy. The Court may well opine that there is close similarity between Five Star and Four Star and Heritage Hotels with regard to foreign clientele; but that segregation or selection is the preserve of the State Government. This is altogether different from viewing the position from the stand point of creating a classification in favour of Five Star hotels. The State can draw support from Rule 13(3) which postulates that special measures for the promotion of .....

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State has been contested on the grounds that the sales have not reduced as a result, but we find no reason to disagree or doubt the bona fides of the State. The Court cannot be blind to the fact that a social stigma at least as far as the family unit is concerned still attaches to the consumption of alcohol. Free trade in alcohol denudes family resources and reserves and leaves women and children as its most vulnerable victims. Purchasing alcohol from a FL-1 shop would entail consuming it under .....

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tention of the State to clamp down on public consumption of alcohol. The One Man Commission Report has been considered, so the policy does not suffer from the vice of arbitrariness. In these circumstances, it is not for the Appellants to argue or for us to hold that the goal of prohibition would be more likely to be met by reducing the number of FL-1 shops or by introducing any other measure. As was held in Balco Employees' Union (Regd.) v. Union of India and Ors. [2001 (12) TMI 808 - SUPREME CO .....

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ards serving beer of a higher alcohol content, the State will have to review its stand, failing which it would inexorably invite further litigation. This curial warning also applies to any laxity in policing or ensuring that no person below the permissible age is allowed to consume alcohol in public. Additionally, we must note that thousands of workers at bars that lost their FL-3 licenses have been rendered unemployed as a result of the impugned policy, leading to over a dozen suicides. The Sta .....

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t of the success of the impugned policy, but it must be given a chance to combat the rise in alcohol. - No reason or justification in accepting these Appeals - Decided against appellants. - Civil Appeal No. 4157 of 2015 - Dated:- 29-12-2015 - Vikramajit Sen And Shiva Kirti Singh, JJ. [C.A. NO. 4119/2015, C.A. NO. 4120/2015, C.A. NO. 4121/2015, C.A. NO. 4122/2015, C.A. NO. 4123/2015, C.A. NO. 4124/2015, C.A. NO. 4125/2015, C.A. NO. 4126-4136/2015, C.A. NO. 4137-4156/2015, C.A. NO. 4158-4159/2015, .....

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2015, C.A. NO. 5799/2015, C.A. NO. 5800/2015, C.A. NO. 5801-5803/2015, C.A. NO. 6271/2015, C.A. NO. 6272/2015, C.A. NO. 6269/2015, C.A. NO. 5790/2015, C.A. NO. 4118/2015, C.A. NO. 6273-6274/2015 and C.A. NO. 6324/2015] JUDGMENT Vikramajit Sen, J. 1. These Appeals call into question the legal correctness of the Judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court of Kerala dated 31.3.2015 by which several Writ Appeals filed by some of the Writ Petitioners assailing the Judgment of the learned Single .....

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, finding their exclusion to be arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. This holding resulted in the filing of appeals on behalf of the State. The impugned Judgment has reversed this conclusion of the learned Single Judge and consequently only Five Star hotels in the State of Kerala are presently permitted to serve alcohol in their bars i.e. in public. 2. The Abkari Act, 1077 was introduced in the erstwhile State of Cochin in 1902 and came to be extended throughout the State o .....

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e relevant to mention that the State of Kerala made a futile foray into prohibition, but this was withdrawn in 1967. The existence of a Union Territory, Mahe, within the State of Kerala, and boundaries with the States of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu where the sale or consumption of liquor is not prohibited indubitably makes it almost impossible for the State to venture into prohibition. 3. It has not been disputed that the State of Kerala is facing an acute social problem because of the widespread a .....

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tely record our reservation inasmuch as FL-11 licences for the sale of consumption of beer and wine are rampantly issued. If the addiction to alcohol or introduction into this pernicious habit is to be combated, there seems to us to be no justification to allow beer or wine to be publically consumed. There cannot be any caveat to the opinion that permitting the consumption of beer and wine is a gateway to the consumption of hard liquor, and indeed is a social malaise in itself. In 1992, the gran .....

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of Kerala v. B.Six Hotels Resort Private Ltd. 2010 (5) SCC 186 which had upheld that policy. Obviously encouraged by this success, the State of Kerala in 2011 introduced further amendments to Rule 13(3) whereby only hotels with Four Star and above classifications were eligible for fresh FL-3 licenses. Again, on the predication that existing FL-3 licence holders were legally entitled to their renewal, this exception was recognised in the Rules. Distance criteria was raised and rejected and we are .....

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at proposal till such time as the Report of the One-man Commission was published and considered and till the State took action against non-standard hotels. In what avowedly is the anticipated and logical progression, the State Government has now restricted FL-3 licences to Five Star hotels alone, and has also decided not to renew all existing FL-3 licences to any of the other hotels. 4. We think it expedient to reproduce the relevant portion of said Order dated 22.8.2014: 7. The Government being .....

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dard bar hotels mentioned in the Judgment of the Supreme Court. 2. 10% of outlets out of 338 FL-1 outlets of Kerala State Beverages Corporation and 46 outlets of Consumer Fed will be closed each year from 2nd October, 2014 onwards. 3. The sale of high strength alcoholic liquor through Beverages Corporation will be gradually reduced. 4. In order to rehabilitate the employees who lose their job due to the closing of bar and to rehabilitate the persons who are alcoholically addicted a special plan .....

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the employees of closing bars and employees engaged in the job of affixing stickers, measures will be adopted. Kerala Alcohol Education Research, Rehabilitation & Compensation Fund (KAERCF) Fund will be formed in order to protect the retrenched employees. The said fund will be utilized for the following purposes such as making propaganda against drinking of alcohol, for collection of data regarding this matter, to protect those who destroyed themselves by alcohol consumption, rehabilitation .....

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may be issued by the Excise Commissioner under orders of Government, in the interest of promotion of tourism in the State, to hotels which have obtained Five Star, Five Star Deluxe classifications from the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, where the privilege of sale of foreign liquor in such hotels has been purchased on payment of an annual rental of 23,00,000 (Rupees Twenty-three lakhs only). However, no such license shall be issued to hotels if located within 200 (two Hundred) metres .....

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have been renewed temporarily from 1st April, 2014, other than those of the hotels having Five Star classifications shall be cancelled. 6. Litigation pertaining to or challenging liquor policies is legion in our land. In his inimitable style Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer commenced the Judgment of the Three-Judge Bench in P.N. Kaushal v. Union of India 1978 (3) SCC 558 thus: A raging rain of writ petitions by hundreds of merchants of intoxicants hit by a recently amended rule declaring a break of tw .....

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ng drinks, is pressed into service to thwart the State s half-hearted prohibitionist gesture. Of course, it is on the cards that the end may be good but the means may be bad, constitutionally speaking. And there is a mystique about legalese beyond the layman s ken! 2. To set the record straight, we must state, right here, that no frontal attack is made on the power of the State to regulate any trade (even a trade where the turn-over turns on tempting the customer to take reeling roiling trips in .....

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r the year 1966-67 in respect of the liquor shop of that petitioner. This Court observed that dealing in liquor is business and a citizen has a right to do business in that commodity, but the State can make a law imposing reasonable restrictions on the said right, in public interest . 8. This very conundrum once again received the attention of the Constitution Bench in Khoday Distilleries Ltd. v. State of Karnatka 1995 (1) SCC 574, where the constitutional provisions pertinent to transacting bus .....

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read along with the said qualifications. Even the rights guaranteed under the Constitutions of the other civilized countries are not absolute but are read subject to the implied limitations on them. Those implied limitations are made explicit by clauses (2) to (6) of Article 19 of our Constitution. (b) The right to practise any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business does not extend to practising a profession or carrying on an occupation, trade or business which is inherently .....

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re, an article which is res extra commercium being inherently harmful. A citizen has, therefore, no fundamental right to do trade or business in liquor. Hence the trade or business in liquor can be completely prohibited. (d) Article 47 of the Constitution considers intoxicating drinks and drugs as injurious to health and impeding the raising of level of nutrition and the standard of living of the people and improvement of the public health. It, therefore, ordains the State to bring about prohibi .....

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except when it is used and consumed for medicinal purposes. (e) For the same reason, the State can create a monopoly either in itself or in the agency created by it for the manufacture, possession, sale and distribution of the liquor as a beverage and also sell the licences to the citizens for the said purpose by charging fees. This can be done under Article 19(6) or even otherwise. (f) For the same reason, again, the State can impose limitations and restrictions on the trade or business in pot .....

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to sell licences to do trade or business in the same, to others. (g) When the State permits trade or business in the potable liquor with or without limitation, the citizen has the right to carry on trade or business subject to the limitations, if any, and the State cannot make discrimination between the citizens who are qualified to carry on the trade or business. (h) The State can adopt any mode of selling the licences for trade or business with a view to maximise its revenue so long as the met .....

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ar as the essential concomitants of Article 14 are concerned, we need not, nay, cannot travel beyond the decision of the Seven-Judge Bench of this Court in In Re: The Special Courts Bill, 1978, 1979 (1) SCC 380. We shall reproduce the first 11 propositions carved out in that judgment: (1) The first part of Article 14, which was adopted from the Irish Constitution, is a declaration of equality of the civil rights of all persons within the territories of India. It enshrines a basic principle of re .....

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power, has of necessity to make laws operating differently on different groups or classes of persons within its territory to attain particular ends in giving effect to its policies, and it must possess for that purpose large powers of distinguishing and classifying persons or things to be subjected to such laws. (3) The constitutional command to the State to afford equal protection of its laws sets a goal not attainable by the invention and application of a precise formula. Therefore, classific .....

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e available to them irrespective of differences of circumstances. It only means that all persons similarly circumstanced shall be treated alike both in privileges conferred and liabilities imposed. Equal laws would have to be applied to all in the same situation, and there should be no discrimination between one person and another if as regards the subject-matter of the legislation their position is substantially the same. (5) By the process of classification, the State has the power of determin .....

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roperties and characteristics. It postulates a rational basis and does not mean herding together of certain persons and classes arbitrarily. (6) The law can make and set apart the classes according to the needs and exigencies of the society and as suggested by experience. It can recognise even degree of evil, but the classification should never be arbitrary, artificial or evasive. (7) The classification must not be arbitrary but must be rational, that is to say, it must not only be based on some .....

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he object sought to be achieved by the Act. (8) The differentia which is the basis of the classification and the object of the Act are distinct things and what is necessary is that there must be a nexus between them. In short, while Article 14 forbids class discrimination by conferring privileges or imposing liabilities upon persons arbitrarily selected out of a large number of other persons similarly situated in relation to the privileges sought to be conferred or the liabilities proposed to be .....

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In such cases, the power given to the executive body would import a duty on it to classify the subject-matter of legislation in accordance with the objective indicated in the statute. If the administrative body proceeds to classify persons or things on a basis which has no rational relation to the objective of the legislature, its action can be annulled as offending against the equal protection clause. On the other hand, if the statute itself does not disclose a definite policy or objective a n .....

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he law cannot be contested because of such an apprehension. Discretionary power is not necessarily a discriminatory power. (11) Classification necessarily implies the making of a distinction or discrimination between persons classified and those who are not members of that class. It is the essence of a classification that upon the class are cast duties and burdens different from those resting upon the general public. Indeed, the very idea of classification is that of inequality, so that it goes .....

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ded and a proviso was added stating that no new licenses under this Rule shall be issued . This was the 2002 amendment whereby fresh FL-3 licenses were to be allowed only for Three Star hotels and above. Consequently, the Excise Commissioner rejected the Applicant s license in view of the abovementioned proviso. The High Court upheld the amendment but found that the application had to be considered with reference to the Rules as they existed on the date of the application and not the date of con .....

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n and processing. In such circumstances it has to be held that the consideration of application of FL-3 licence should be only with reference to the rules/law prevailing or in force on the date of consideration of the application by the excise authorities, with reference to the law and not as on the date of application. It was also noted that the promotion of tourism is to be balanced with general public interest. If the State finds that sufficient licenses have already been granted or that no m .....

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classifications. The newly introduced Distance Rule was also challenged. The Single Judge therein dismissed the writ petition, finding no vested right to get a license, no element of discrimination and no legitimate expectation. The Division Bench, however, found no distinction between existing Three Star hotels and new ones, and held that the decision to set up hotels should be left to hoteliers. It found both the amendments bad in law. This Court again reaffirmed that there is no fundamental r .....

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ted out by the Appellants herein that this Court went on to find that Two Star and Three Star hotels stand on a different footing than those of Four Star and Five Star classifications, as per the classification of the Ministry of Tourism and the fact that only the latter is required to have a bar license. However, this finding was clearly obiter and must be treated as such. The Distance Rule was struck down, with a finding that although we do not dispute the power of the State Government to brin .....

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ndate of Article 47. The limitation of fresh licenses to Four Star hotels and above was upheld, but the State Government was directed not to deny FL-3 licenses to hotels with Four Star and above classifications until the receipt of the report of the One Man Commission, and until action is taken against non-standard restaurants who have been permitted under the sixth and seventh proviso of Rule 13(3). 12. As we have already delineated, it is in the wake of these two judgments that the further res .....

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of trade or business in potable liquor with or without limitation, the citizen has the right not to be discriminated against. Any regulatory measure would thus have to satisfy the test of Article 14. It rejected the arguments of the Appellants that the field of prohibition is occupied by the Prohibition Act, 1950 and that the present policy is outside the scope of the object of the Abkari Act as it aims at bringing about prohibition. It was also held that where a change of policy is valid in la .....

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hotels are concerned, the Single Judge noted that there are only 20 Five Star hotels in Kerala and only 33 hotels in the Four Star and Heritage categories. It was held that none of the material before the State Government proposed the exclusion of Four Star and Heritage hotels from the criterion of eligibility for bar licenses. While there is a presumption that the Government has full knowledge of the social aspects of the proposed controls, in the absence of any material on the record, this pr .....

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otels and those of Three Stars and below, by prescribing that the former have to maintain a distance of only 50 meters from educational and religious institutions. The Government did not even state the reasons for rejecting the recommendations in the Reports before it. The learned Single Judge accordingly held that the policy was violative of Article 14 and it was struck down inasmuch as it excluded Four Star and Heritage category hotels from being granted FL-3 licenses. 13. This decision was se .....

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n such policy decisions. It is also not for the Courts to find whether a more feasible view is possible or whether a better policy could be evolved, which intrinsically remains a subjective exercise. The Division Bench also differentiated the factual matrix obtaining before it from that in State of Maharashtra v. Indian Hotel and Restaurants Association (2013) 8 SCC 519, commonly referred to as the Dance Bar case, on the premise that in the latter the fundamental rights of thousands of dancing g .....

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voring to bring about prohibition. All the relevant documents and Reports were available to the Government at the time it made the impugned policy, ergo it should be assumed that the Government duly deliberated on them. It was held that Four Star, Five Star and Heritage category hotels cannot be said to form a single class by themselves, as different yardsticks are provided for each of these categories. The Division Bench noted that the object of the policy is the reduction of consumption of alc .....

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y. The appeals filed by the Two Star, Three Star and unclassified hotels were therefore dismissed, and the appeals filed by the State were allowed. 14. In the interest of avoiding prolixity, we shall refrain from recording the arguments before us in unnecessary detail. Instead, we shall begin our analysis by laying out the crux of the arguments of learned Senior Counsel for the Respondent, who has submitted that the Government has the right to devise whatever policy it thinks expedient, and the .....

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ree. This does not have to be achieved in one fell swoop, but can be introduced in whatever piecemeal manner the Government reasonably sees fit. In fact, the State has been taking steps to this effect for decades, and has been endeavouring to reduce the consumption of alcohol in public since 1992. The State should be allowed to experiment to see which version and variation of its policies achieves the best result. It may well choose to revoke an unsuccessful policy at some later date. To make su .....

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giving the State the necessary control. Secondly, wholesale and retail supply has been under the control of the State since 1984. The Government has taken steps to curb consumption by reducing the number of FL-1 shops by over 10 per cent, from 384 to 332, between 2014 and 2015. The third element, which is pertinent on the facts before us, is regarding consumption which is in alarming proportion in Kerala especially when compared to other States. The Table produced below is relevant in understand .....

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.38 171.63 2.34 195.73 2.36 UN STARRED 854.8 13.5 955.39 13.0 3 1126.23 13.56 FL-1 SHOPS 4823 76.2 1 5612 76.5 3 6260 75.39 HERITAGE 4.93 0.08 8.04 0.11 12.34 0.15 CLASSIFIE D 29.89 0.47 19.77 0.27 24.55 0.29 TOTAL 6328.7 5 100 7332.1 3 100 8303.6 5 100 16. In its attempt to reduce the consumption of alcohol in Kerala, the Government has decided to curb public drinking. This is enshrined in Section 15C of the Abkari Act, which is laid out below for the facility of reference: 15C. Consumption in .....

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-house, travellers bungalow or tourist bungalow where different individuals or groups of persons consume food but shall not include any private residential room. Rule 13(3) of the Abkari Rules is thus an exception to Section 15C, for the purpose of tourism. The situation before us, then, is not as simple as the Constitutional rights of hotels of Four Star and below classifications being violated because of a policy granting FL-3 licenses only to Five Star hotels. The question is whether the poli .....

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h the object sough to be achieved. The Appellants have submitted that there is no intelligible differentia in the creation of classes, on their predication that Four Star and Five Star hotels form one homogenous class. It has been argued that this Court in Surendra Das came to a finding that Four Star and Five Star hotels are in a different category than those with a lower classification; that the Tourism Department imposes an obligation on both Four Star and Five Star hotels to have a bar; that .....

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stanced shall be treated alike both in privileges conferred and liabilities imposed. Equal laws would have to be applied to all in the same situation, and there should be no discrimination between one person and another if as regards the subject-matter of the legislation their position is substantially the same. We have already discussed this landmark exposition of Constitutional law above. It has also been argued that since the object of the policy pertains to the situs of drinking, the State c .....

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ction 15C was created by an Act, and cannot be altered under a rule making power. The classification at hand is based on social and economic class, as there is a clear distinction between the expense and resultantly the clientele of the hotels that have been allowed FL-3 licenses and those that have not. Therefore, a strict scrutiny test must be applied, and the Government must be asked to provide a rigorous, detailed explanation in this classification. As was elucidated in Ashok Kumar Thakur v. .....

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rnment is facially financially driven, as while it is denying FL-3 licenses to hotels with Four Star and below classifications, it is improving the infrastructure in FL-1 shops, all of which are State owned. The previous clientele of the hotels that lost their FL-3 licenses are now frequenting these shops. 19. The Appellants have further contended that the policy suffers from the vice of arbitrariness, which is antithetical to equality. The One Man Commission Report and the Tax Secretary s Repor .....

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ng the impugned policy also went against the instructions of this Court in Surendra Das. Thus the impugned policy was arbitrary, unreasoned and procedurally unsound. Furthermore, it was contended that reissuance is a matter of right. At the time of applying for a license, the chance of reissuance is a consideration. The procedure for a renewal and for a fresh application are different. More significantly, the State, before this Court in Surendra Das, submitted that renewal is a matter of right, .....

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assification was not created by the Respondent State, but is a clear classification process with specifically laid out requirements. In response to the arguments of the Appellants, it was contended that in Surendra Das, the differentia or absence of it in the case of Four Star and Five Star hotels was not in issue and therefore this issue is at large. In fact, in the course of submissions in Surendra Das, the Respondent had made bold that it intended to prohibit the grant of FL-3 licenses even t .....

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unts to sub-sub-classification, the Respondent has argued that the Explanation was a definition clause and merely listed the places that come under the umbrella of public place . It did not create a class in any way. 21. It was contended that the policy did have a reasonable nexus with the object sought to be achieved, as the object of the policy, as enshrined in Section 15C, was to reduce the public consumption of liquor. An exception was made in the interest of tourism under Rule 13(3) in favo .....

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has reduced the number of FL-1 shops by over 10 per cent in the past year. 22. The Respondent contended that the policy is not arbitrary. The reason for refusing to grant FL-3 licenses to Four Star hotels is the fear that all the Three Star establishments in the State will try to get upgraded to Four Stars. Furthermore, all relevant documents were taken into consideration. There was no obligation on the State to accept the submissions of the One Man Commission or the Tax Secretary. It simply ha .....

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ould have been for a legitimate trade. Finally, it was submitted that constitutionality is presumed, so the burden of proof is on the person alleging that their rights under Article 14 have been violated. 23. The next ground for challenge has been under Article 19. Learned Senior Counsel for the Appellants, Mr. Aryaman Sundaram, has sought to argue that a right under Article 19(1)(g) exists in the business of liquor. In his detailed elucidation of the decision in Khoday, he has contended that th .....

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s also injuncted from carrying on such trade, particularly in view of the provisions of Article 47, though apparently attractive, is fallacious. The State s power to regulate and to restrict the business in potable liquor impliedly includes the power to carry on such trade to the exclusion of others. Prohibition is not the only way to restrict and regulate the consumption of intoxicating liquor. The abuse of drinking intoxicants can be prevented also by limiting and controlling its production, s .....

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l public under Article19(6) of the Constitution. 56. The contention further that till prohibition is introduced, a citizen has a fundamental right to carry on trade or business in potable liquor has also no merit. All that the citizen can claim in such a situation is an equal right to carry on trade or business in potable liquor as against the other citizens. He cannot claim equal right to carry on the business against the State when the State reserves to itself the exclusive right to carry on s .....

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47. However, the categorization of dealing in liquor as a qualified fundamental right cannot be interpreted to indicate that a right under Article 19(1)(g) does not arise. This is in line with the previous Five-Judge bench decision in Krishan Kumar Narula, which, as we previously discussed, returned the opinion that a citizen can have a right to deal in liquor, subject to reasonable restrictions in the public interest. Thus since Five Star hotels are given a right to deal in liquor, all other ca .....

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nment did not consider the report at all. The Appellants contend that an assumption that the materials were considered merely because nothing on the record definitively says that they were not is erroneous. 24. We disagree with the submissions of the Respondents that there is no right to trade in liquor because it is res extra commercium. The interpretation of Khoday put forward by Mr. Sundaram is, in our opinion, more acceptable. A right under Article 19(1)(g) to trade in liquor does exist prov .....

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rishan Kumar Narula, the Constitution Bench was of the opinion that dealing in liquor is a legitimate business, although the State can impose reasonable restrictions. A few years later, however, in Khoday, the concept of res extra commercium came to be accepted and applied to the business of manufacture and trade in potable liquor. This Court, however, did not place any embargo or constraints on the State to transact this business. History has painstakingly made it abundantly clear that prohibit .....

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alcohol. The impugned Policy, therefore, is to be encouraged and is certainly not to be struck down or discouraged by the Courts. How this policy is to be implemented, modified, adapted or restructured is the province of the State Government and not of the Judiciary. The consumption of tobacco as well as liquor is now undeniably deleterious to the health of humankind. Advertising either of these intoxicants has been banned in most parts of the world, the avowed purpose being to insulate persons .....

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considered opinion, cannot but be seen as a positive step towards bringing down the consumption of alcohol, or as preparatory to prohibition. 26. A concerted effort has been made before us, as has been done several times before in this Court, to assail and attack the impugned State policy on the anvil of Article 14 of the Constitution. To meet the tests of this Article, i.e. the right to equality, there has to be intelligible differentia in the classification or the categorisation that has been .....

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gain assailed in Court on the predication that a ban exempting Four Star, Five Star and Heritage hotels created a hostile and unfair discrimination. There was another element in this litigation, namely that those who had received licences were found to possess vested rights towards their renewal. There was also a challenge to the distance criteria prescribed by the State. All these grounds of assailment did not find favour yet again with the Co-ordinate Bench in Surendra Das. We are not impresse .....

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Four Star and Heritage hotels. We cannot also lose sight of the fact that it is not the State which has imposed the classification of Star gradation of hotels. This is done by the Ministry of Tourism, which in turn is further guided by the criteria established in the hospitality trade. Placing a moratorium on all hotels other than Five Star hotels, therefore, is not a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution. The argument on behalf of the Appellants pertaining to impermissibility of sub-class .....

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avouring to upgrade their hotels from Four Star to Five Star. We have already noted that the least amount of sale of alcohol (0.08 per cent) occurs in Five Star hotels, which sale indubitably includes guest orders in room-service. We cannot therefore detect any arbitrariness or capriciousness either in the classification, nay the unique treatment given by the State to hotels possessing Five Star rating. The immediately succeeding question that arises is whether this classification has a reasonab .....

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s at great length through the One Man Commission Report to establish that the State duly considered the recommendations therein and incorporated a number of them. It is trite that since the obligation on the State was to consider the Report, not to incorporate it in its entirety, no legal requirement has been transgressed. We agree with these submissions. The policy cannot, therefore, be written off as arbitrary or procedurally unsound. 27. We now move to the arguments predicated on Article 19 o .....

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Star Rating so far as hotels are concerned. This is intrinsically modulated by the Tourism Industry and not by the State Government. It seems to us that the impugned policy of eradicating consumption of alcohol in public applies to all stakeholders without exception. However, thereafter a relaxation or exception, in the interest of tourism, has been forged in favour of Five Star hotels alone so far as the drive against public consumption of liquor is concerned. In other words, were it not for co .....

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from the stand point of creating a classification in favour of Five Star hotels. The State can draw support from Rule 13(3) which postulates that special measures for the promotion of tourism can be ordained by the State. We cannot subscribe to the view that this Rule violates Section 15C of the Abkari Act. 29. We also note what is certainly a strong criticism to the State policy on alcohol, namely, that FL-1 sales are a State monopoly and result in almost 80 per cent of the sales in the State o .....

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ohol. Free trade in alcohol denudes family resources and reserves and leaves women and children as its most vulnerable victims. Purchasing alcohol from a FL-1 shop would entail consuming it under the reproachful gaze of the dependants, especially the female members of the family. This is certainly a discouragement to regular and excessive consumption of alcohol. We must accept that that the possibility exists that rooms may be rented in Three and Four Star hotels, where alcohol can be brought fr .....

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policy. Judicial review is justified only if the policy is arbitrary, unfair or violative of fundamental rights. Courts must be loathe to venture into an evaluation of State policy. It must be given a reasonable time to pan out. If a policy proves to be unwise, oppressive or mindless, the electorate has been quick to make the Government aware of its folly. As was recently held by a Three-judge bench of this Court in Census Commissioner v. R. Krishnamurthy (2015) 2 SCC 796: From the aforesaid pr .....

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opinions but the Court is not expected to sit as an appellate authority on an opinion. We find no illegality or irrationality with the intention of the State to clamp down on public consumption of alcohol. The One Man Commission Report has been considered, so the policy does not suffer from the vice of arbitrariness. In these circumstances, it is not for the Appellants to argue or for us to hold that the goal of prohibition would be more likely to be met by reducing the number of FL-1 shops or b .....

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we must express our distress at the allegations made, not without some substance, that Five Star hotels have opened out some of their premises for consumption of liquor not only at depressed rates but also in surroundings which are not commensurate to their Five Star ratings. This may be a good and sufficient reason to denude these Hotels of their Five Star gradation. Such malpractice will have to be immediately erased by the State, as its failure to do so it will only invite further litigation .....

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