While keeping recent judicial pronouncement on Kerala's new liquor policy in focus, examine the right to equality and freedom of trade as guaranteed by Constitution of India.
The supreme court judgement on Kerala liquor policy should be analyzed with two provisions viz. article 14 and article 19(1)(g).
- Article 14 says that State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
- Article 19 (1)(g) provides freedom to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
The Kerala state government’s liquor policy was challenged by the hotel owners in court on the ground that this policy:
- allowed only five start hotels to sell liquor thus made an unreasonable classification and this violated article 14
- It violated article 19(1)(g) because it did not allow them to practise a profession of their choice.
However, Supreme Court quashed their plea and upheld the state’s policy. While giving the judgement, Supreme Court noted that both these rights are not absolute and are subject to reasonable restrictions. Further, Article 47 (DPSP) directs the state to make an endeavour towards improving public health, including by bringing about prohibition of the consumption of liquor.