The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday stayed the state government's decision to cancel all bar licences in the state, in an interim order, which came as a blow to Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy's plan to implement total prohibition.
The state government had announced on November 22, that it was cancelling all bar licences under its jurisdiction and had given time to the establishments until December 31, 2019, to wind up their operations. The state said that it would issue new licences from January 1, 2020.
The move came three days after CM Jagan Mohan Reddy said that they planned to shut down 40% of the bars in the state as part of the government's plan to implement total prohibition in phases.
Several bar owners had moved the High Court and challenged the move, arguing that the decision was unfair, arbitrary and illegal, as their licences were valid till 2022. They pointed out that they had already paid their licence fee till 2020 as well.
The state government has argued in court, that it had discretionary powers to amend the existing policy.
After issuing the stay, the High Court said that the case was posted to February 2 for further hearing.
Prohibition was one of the major poll promises of the YSRCP, made by Jagan during his 'Praja Sankalpa Yatra', a massive walkathon that he had undertaken ahead of the election, which is widely believed to have swept him into power.
Soon after coming to power, the YSRCP government reduced the number of retail liquor shops from 4,380 to 3,500. The shops were also taken over by the state-owned Andhra Pradesh State Beverages Corporation Ltd and the business hours of the wine shops were curtailed.
The state government plans to implement prohibition in a phased manner and ultimately confine the sale of liquor to only five-star hotels, with the YSRCP hoping to achieve this by the end of their five-year tenure.