Following its decision to prohibit the issuance of discounts or rebates by retail liquor sellers came under challenge before the High Court, the Delhi government Thursday told the court that the giving of huge discounts by liquor vends was an attempt by a few to “monopolise” the whole system.
“The government found, as a policy measure, that Delhi could not become a city for promoting drunkenness through the measure of discounts. This was being misused over and over and over again by attracting and luring people by absolutely unreasonable and strange discounting policies. It was also used as a measure of monopolizing,” submitted Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi on behalf of the government.
The submission was made during the hearing of a batch of petitions challenging the February 28 order passed by Commissioner (Excise) who stated that the gathering of large crowds outside the liquor stores on account of discounts was leading to a law and order situation, causing inconvenience to the local population. The order also said such discounting was leading to unhealthy market practices.
Opposing any stay on the decision, the government told the court that at the highest, if the petitioners succeed in their case, the licence fee can be adjusted. Singhvi argued that the court should await the formal response of the government before passing any order.
“It felt necessary that as a larger policy approach this should be stopped immediately and a lot of malpractices in the guise of calling it a discount were going on,” he argued, while referring to the promotion of “drinking beyond reasonable limits” and monopolisation.
Issuing notice to the government, Justice V Kameswar Rao asked the government to file a counter affidavit by Friday evening and asked the petitioners to file rejoinder one day thereafter. The court listed the case for the next hearing on Monday.
The licence holders in the petition before the court have argued that the liquor policy and tender expressly permitted the grant of discounts but without any opportunity of hearing, the order prohibiting it was passed on February 28. “The fundamental policy of doing business cannot be changed midway after huge licence fees have been taken and are being demanded,” reads the plea.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohtagi, representing one of the petitioners, told the court that sales have fallen considerably in the last two days and the business has now gone back to Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. “Today the policy is till 31st of March. I cannot estimate which customer will come or which customer would have come and I cannot be compensated in terms of money because the position is irreversible,” Rohtagi told the court.