Kerala HC allows serving of alcohol at private functions within precincts of a house

High Court of Kerala: In a writ petition filed by the petitioner alleging police harassment on account of insistence by officials to get a license for serving alcohol to his house guests celebrating the baptism of his grandson, a Division Bench comprising Antony Dominic and Dama Sashadri Naidu, JJ. held that serving liquor at private functions in the precincts of a person’s house is permitted. The issues before the Court were whether the petitioner’s house amounted to a public place and if serving liquor to guests amounted to vending liquor under the Kerala Abkari Act.

The respondents argued that the baptism was a public function and that the petitioner was not entitled to serve liquor either at his house or outside, stating that “a host needs to obtain it (license) to serve liquor on occasions such as conferences, meeting, marriage functions, family get-togethers, even if they are held in the close confines of houses.” The respondents also stated that gifting of liquor amounted to transfer of liquor which cannot be done without a license.

Relying on Atithi Devobhava and on the contentions of the petitioner, the Court held that the relevant provisions under the Kerala Abkari Act and Foreign Liquor Rules were for commercial establishments and were related to serving alcohol on special occasions, however, the petitioner was allowed to serve liquor to his guests in his house. The Court also observed that the potential for abuse of a provision of law cannot be held to be a reason to vilify that provision of law; and that the Government has already imposed strict limitations on the quantity a person can possess. It has also defined what a public place is. If these norms are violated, the government is always free to act. [Alex V. Chacko v. The Director General of Police (Law & Order), 2017 SCC OnLine Ker 7448, decided on 23.06.2017]

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