Move to compromise bar bribery case

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015,12:54 IST By By MRC Panikkar A A A

Hectic talks are on behind the scenes for a compromise on the bar bribery case that rattled the Kerala state government.

The government and bar owners are contemplating a compromise formula that leads to issuance of bar license to three-star and four-star bars. The move was initiated after considering that approaching the Assembly elections with serial allegations and counter-allegations will only put the government under immense pressure.

Bar owners filed a revision petition in the Supreme Court after the state High Court and a Supreme Court bench upheld the government’s revised liquor policy. They argued that the government’s policy denying bar license to three-star and four-star bars is discriminatory.

They asked why the bar license is restricted only to five star hotels, while the rules stipulated by the tourism department are applicable to three-star, four-star and five-star bars. As per rules, all the three categories of bars are eligible to get license only if they have 10 air conditioned rooms, a swimming pool and a conference hall, which is estimated to cost at least 30 crore rupees.

The Supreme Court had admitted this point raised by the bar owners during hearing. The case is pending verdict.

The judge who heard the arguments in this case is set to retire on December 23; hence he is expected to deliver the judgment before that.

If the court takes a stand against discretion among the three categories, the government will be forced to grant license to the three-star and four-star bars that are already defunct.

It is this compromise formula that is under active consideration of the government and bar owners to get rid of the bar bribery case that has taken its toll on both sides.

The government is also thinking of the option to make amendment to the liquor policy in view of the assembly elections, due next year.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s statement in favor of such a move is relevant in this context.