Indian Supreme Court upholds alcohol ban in Kerala

Toddy shop in Kerala Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Toddy, which is extracted from coconut sap, has been exempted from the ban

India's Supreme Court has upheld Kerala state's decision to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol in bars.

The court rejected a petition by bar owners to overturn the ban, which restricts liquor sales and consumption to bars in five-star hotels.

The southern state wants to shut bars in a move towards total prohibition within 10 years.

Kerala has India's highest per capita alcohol consumption at more than eight litres per person yearly.

The national annual average for alcohol consumption is estimated to be about 5.7 litres per person.

The government wants to make the southern state free from alcohol in the next 10 years to "protect youth from destroying their lives".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Kerala is a popular tourism destination

The order means that nearly 700 bars will be gradually shut in the state, which is popular among both domestic and foreign travellers.

Bar owners argued in the court that the ban would severely hit the state's income from tourism and also make many people jobless.

Image copyright other
Image caption The government plans to enforce total prohibition in 10 years

But the state said its priority was to protect the health of the people.

Doctors and activists have also highlighted rising alcohol abuse, blaming it for many road accidents and even marital breakdown. They say hospitals and rehabilitation centres in Kerala are packed with patients suffering from alcohol-related diseases.

The authorities, however, have made some concessions to impose the ban gradually.

Shops will continue to sell alcohol and bars have also been allowed to keep serving weaker alcoholic drinks such as wine and beer.

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