The Kerala High Court on Tuesday slammed the decision of the Pinarayi Vijayan government to open liquor vends on highways, warning they should not interpret the court's directive and any action should be taken only after seeking a clarification.
This setback to the Vijayan government came a few hours after State Public Works Department Minister G. Sudhakaran said that the confusion has been created by the apex court directive on national highways and it should reconsider its decision.
The high court's statements came as it heard a petition by a Congress activist stating that the state government was trying to mislead the court over the terminology of national highways and the observation made last week.
The high court also pointed out that the government should not make any efforts to open the liquor vends on the national highways, by citing court directives they have interpreted wrongly, warning that they know what to do if the state government tries to act smart.
Until further orders, no action on opening of bars on national highways should be attempted, it ordered.
Last week, the state Excise Department had asked the high court to consider the demand of bar hotels situated along the Cherthala-Thiruvananthapuram and Kannur-Kuttipuram national highways to continue operations as these roads were de-notified as highways, prior to the Supreme Court order on liquor outlets along highways.
The Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference, who have been demanding that the present liquor policy prevailing in the state should not be tinkered with, said that it had become very clear that the Vijayan government is trying to play hide and seek over the liquor policy and now everyone knows what they are up to.
The present liquor policy in the state was formulated during the time of the Oommen Chandy government which in 2015 closed down around 700 bars, except two dozen bars that operated in five star or more rated hotels.
And following the apex court directive over those liquor vends located on national and state highways, many had closed down.
It now remains to be seen what the Vijayan government's policy would be. State Excise Minister T.P.Ramakrishnan had earlier this month promised that it would be unveiled this month, and be guided by their principle of abstinence from liquor and not Chandy's policy where prohibition was to be reached in a phased manner by 2023.