Despite court verdict, women are barred from working in bars in Kerala

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Although two women in 2015 won a favorable order and were allowed to work in the hotel serving alcohol, the rule that prohibits women from doing so was not changed.

In 2015, two women – Dhanyamol CJ and Soniya Das – who were employees of the White Dammar International hotel in Thiruvananthapuram fought a legal battle against the Kerala government for banning women from serving alcohol in bars and restaurants. hotels. The Kerala High Court ruled in their favour, upholding their freedom to work, and said restricting their freedom would victimize them under the guise of protection.

Six years later, however, a similar case unfolded – on March 15, 2022, a hotel owner in Kochi was arrested for appointing women to serve alcohol and for failing to keep inventory records. . Videos of the bar’s inauguration that circulated on social media showed women from other countries serving alcohol. The case was filed citing Rule 27A of the Foreign Liquor Rules, violation of license conditions 12 and 9A and Section 56B of the Kerala Abkari Act (fault on the part of the licensee).

This Rule 27A was added to the Foreign Liquor Rules in 2013, by a government order dated December 9. The rule states: “No woman shall be employed in any capacity to serve alcohol on licensed premises. Justifying the amendment, the order states: “The government has received various complaints that women are employed in licensed premises to serve alcohol to their customers. To ban such practices, the government decided to change the rules on foreign liquor.

This rule has not been revoked or changed despite the observation of Judge Dama Sheshadri in the ‘Dhanyamol CJ v. State of Kerala’ case in 2015. He observed: “Women would be equally vulnerable without the protection of the state only because of the loss of liberty due to the contested law. The current law ends up victimizing its subject in the name of protection. The judgment also added: “Instead of restricting women’s freedom, empowerment would be a more tenable and socially wiser approach. This empowerment should be reflected in the state’s law enforcement strategies as well as the law modeling performed in this name.

The court also held that it did not take much thought to state that Rule 27A of the Kerala Foreign Liquor Rules as well as Condition 9A under the heading Conditions in the FL 3 forms (the license granted to bars and hotels for the bottling of foreign alcohol for the purpose of sale) do not respect the constitutional regime of gender equality as set out in Articles 14, 15 (1) and (2) and 16 (1 ) and (2) of the Constitution of India. It is therefore held. Accordingly, the motion in brief is authorized.

It is learned that the Kerala government did not change its 2013 rule even after a court order.

Ernakulam Deputy Excise Commissioner Tenymon B told TNM that the rule has not yet been changed by the government, so it exists. “That was not the only offense in this case, they (the owner of the hotel in Kochi) were also accused of not keeping stock records. In bars serving alcohol for consumption, women are not allowed to be hired. Women can only be appointed in FL-1 licensed stores,” he said. FL-1 is the license for possession of Indian Made Foreign Liqour (IMFL) for sale to the public. It differs from the FL-3 license because establishments with an FL-1 license are not allowed to consume alcohol on their premises. In addition, women are hired at outlets. sale of beverages owned by the state government for sale, billing, etc. At these outlets, consumption on unauthorized premises allows them to package and take liquor (licensed FL-1 About 50 women work in the outlets of Kerala State Beverages.

Another Excise Department officer who requested anonymity said that in Kochi, Russian women were appointed to serve alcohol. “We don’t think they were permanent staff. But were these women brought from Russia? Officials had suspicions, so the owner was booked under available arrangements,” the officer said.

However, sources close to the management of the Kochi hotel claimed that the foreign women were not their employees, that it was a party and that they were serving each other.

Attorney Thomas Abraham, who represented Dhanyamol, told TNM there was no direction from the court to change Rule 27A. “It is up to the government whether or not to change the rule, based on this court order,” he said.

V Sunil Kumar, Chairman of the State Federation of Kerala Hotel Association, an organization comprised of hotels, licensed restaurants, resorts and heritage hotels with liquor licenses operating in the State, said many women work in bars and any action against her is in contempt of court. He is also the owner of White Dammar International, where Dhanyamol and Soniya worked.

“About 40 women work in my hotel. Throughout Kerala, many women work in hotel bars and serve alcohol. We have a favorable court decision,” he said. “In the recent issue of Kochi, they appointed foreigners (women) to serve alcohol. As far as I know, there were issues related to this. appoint foreigners,” he added.

He also pointed out that although the government did not change the rule, after the HC order, there were no restrictions in the appointment of women.

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