India's Kerala state alcohol ban proposal put on hold

A British tourist drinks beer at a restaurant in Kerala, 9 September 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Businesses are worried that the proposed ban may hit tourism

India's top court has put on hold a move by Kerala to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol to tackle the state's drink problem.

The court halted the move until the end of September following protests from bar owners and hoteliers.

Authorities plan to shut more than 700 bars as well as some shops in a move towards total prohibition.

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.

On Thursday, the court put on hold the government's plan until 30 September to allow courts in Kerala to hear petitions from bar owners who say that the move to ban alcohol is discriminatory and affects their business.

They also fear that the move will deter tourists.

Judge Anil R Dave questioned Kerala's plans to ban alcohol and enforce total prohibition in 10 years.

The plans include shutting down bars and shops selling alcohol and introducing more alcohol-free days. Only luxury hotels will be allowed to serve alcohol.

"If you want to stop it, stop the whole thing in one go like Gujarat. Gujarat is much safer," Judge Dave said, referring to the western state which has long enforced prohibition.

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