The Andhra Pradesh High Court directed the state government on Tuesday to file a counter affidavit to a petition by several bar owners over the abrupt cancellation of their bar licenses.
The state government had recently announced that new licenses would be issued from January 1, 2020 and cancelled all bar licenses across Andhra Pradesh. This decision was taken as part of the YSRCP government's plan to shut down 40% of the bars in the state, and implement total prohibition in phases.
However, bar owners said that the decision was unfair, arbitrary and illegal, as their licenses were valid till 2022, and they had already paid their license fee till 2020, and moved court.
"Many of us had renewed our licenses in 2017 for 5 years. These are valid up to June 30, 2022. We understand that the decision was taken as a part of the move towards prohibition, but many of us have already paid the yearly license fee upto June 30, 2020. We should at least be given time till then," Andhra Pradesh State Wine Dealers’ Association President Subba Rao had told TNM last week.
Media reports quoted the counsel of the bar owners stating that the government increased the license and registration fee exorbitantly after cancelling the existing licenses, which was seemingly aimed at generating additional revenue, and not at prohibition.
Meanwhile, the state government argued that it had discretionary powers to amend existing policy.
After hearing both sides, the High Court directed the government to file a counter affidavit by December 10 and posted the case for further hearing, on December 18.
Prohibition was one of the major poll promises made by the YSRCP.
The YSRCP government has already reduced the number of retail liquor shops from 4,380 to 3,500. The shops were also taken over by the state-owned A.P. State Beverages Corporation Ltd and the business hours of the wine shops were also curtailed.
The state government plans to implement prohibition in a phased manner and ultimately confine the sale of liquor to only five-star hotels. The YSRCP hopes to bring in total prohibition in this manner, by the end of their five-year tenure.