The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday gave a ten-day time period to the UT Administration for filing of reply to a petition challenging its excise policy. The petition alleged that the policy was leading to a complete carterlisation of liquor business in the city.
The division bench of Justices Rajan Gupta and Karamjit Singh issued a notice to the UT Administration and its Excise and Taxation Department for July 8 and in the order noted, “allotments which have been made meanwhile shall be subject to the final outcome of the writ petition.”
The petition has been filed by 52-year-old Rajbir Singh, who runs a liquor vend in Sector 17B. Senior Advocate Anand Chibber argued before the court that the policy adopted by the UT Administration has led to a monopoly of certain individuals through their firms.
“The terms of allotment have been diluted for wholesale of foreign liquor such that only five third party entities/persons holding only authorisation letters from a particular brand are granted L-1F (license for) foreign liquor wholesale,” reads the petition, adding certain foreign liquor manufacturers since 2019-2020 have ceased to operate foreign liquor wholesale in Chandigarh due to the cartelisation caused by it and also because spurious foreign liquor is being rampantly sold in Chandigarh at a low price.
Singh in the petition has further said big retail players have obtained the foreign liquor authorisation for foreign brands, and limiting the issuance of wholesale licenses to only five has harmed the independent retail outlets like his as he is forced to buy foreign liquor from such competitor retailers instead of buying the same directly from the foreign reputed manufacturer.
Chibber, during the hearing, also highlighted that certain internal departmental stores have been given a license at the rate of Rs 20 lakh to sell the foreign liquor but the L-2 retailers have to pay around Rs 4 crore as license fee, causing disadvantage to the liquor vends.
The petition also alleges that the condition that a single person or entity will be allotted a maximum of ten vends only, is vague and in actual practice a person or their family have been permitted to operate more than ten vends through multiple corporate entities.
The classification of liquor vends as city shops, village shops and normal shops has also been challenged in the petition.
Submitting that all the citizens have an equal opportunity to buy and consume liquor from 9 am to 11 pm, the petition states that those who can afford have been allowed to visit nightclubs for purchase and consumption till 1 and those who can afford to visit local five stars hotel bars can buy and consume liquor round-the-clock.
The decision to not make barcodes compulsory has also been challenged in the petition.
While a number of clauses pertaining have been challenged in the petition, Singh has also questioned the “vague” imposition of cow cess and ‘Covid cess’ on liquor.
The petition contends that “respondents (UT) are acting in a wholly arbitrary manner wherein they are actively promoting the liquor cartels in the city, as well as the sale and consumption of illicit and spurious liquor.”
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