The Delhi High Court Friday declined to grant interim stay on the Delhi government’s move to levy “Special Corona Fee” of 70 per cent on the MRP of liquor of all brands in the national capital amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The 70 per cent tax is on the maximum retail price (MRP) per bottle. For instance, a liquor bottle with a pre-tax MRP of Rs 1,000 will now cost Rs 1,700.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar issued notice to the Delhi government on a batch of PILs seeking setting aside of the May 4 notification and declare it illegal.
Delhi government’s Standing Counsel Ramesh Singh opposed the contentions raised in the petitions and submitted that, “we (government) would file a detailed reply,” pointing out how the coronavirus levy is valid.
Taking note of this, the bench granted the Delhi government time till May 29 to file their response to the petitions.
“No stay (on the Delhi government’s notification). Let respondents file their counter affidavit,” the bench said, when the advocates for the petitioners pressed for interim suspension of the Delhi government’s order.
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The Delhi government imposed the “Special Corona Fee” on alcohol, a day after allowing re-opening of 150 state-run liquor vends in the city from May 3.
Following this, a batch of public interest litigations (PILs) were filed in the High Court, including one by Lalit Valecha, who contended that the “Special Corona Fee” imposed by the Delhi government upon sale of liquor is in excess of what has been authorised by the law and accordingly it is being collected arbitrarily.
One of the five petitions contended that it is a means to loot the consumers who are already financially hit.
“A whopping 70 per cent special corona fee is too much for the common man to bear, especially when every person has been financially hit in the prevailing circumstances arising out of Covid-19,” Valecha said in his plea filed through advocate Manu Prabhakar.
It was alleged that there is no justification or explanation of the sudden levying of the unprecedented “Special Corona Fee” and the decision was taken a day after the reports of mismanagement of crowd outside the liquor vends in the city.
The petitions also questioned the procedure followed by the authorities to bring in force the said fee.
It said, “The maximum retail price of liquor in Delhi includes all the taxes and duties that have already been imposed by the union and GNCTD for the purpose of production, transport, wholesale and retail sale of liquor. Increasing the maximum retail price by 70 per cent by the means of an executive order is illegal.”
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