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Jalandhar

Posted at: Feb 15, 2018, 1:57 AM; last updated: Feb 15, 2018, 1:57 AM (IST)

Booze permit seekers allege harassment

Forced to buy cheap liquor brands in excess for pvt functions
Booze permit seekers allege harassment
A rate list displayed at a liquor shop in Jalandhar. Malkiat Singh

Rachna Khaira

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 14

The District Excise Department has been mired in a controversy for allegedly ‘browbeating’ those who are approaching the department to obtain liquor permit under L-50A to serve liquor in private functions.

The applicants were allegedly forced to buy at least three cases of liquor brands (at least 36 bottles) irrespective of their requirement at the event. More so, they were even forced to buy cheap brands available with the respective liquor contractor of a particular district or the Municipal Corporation.

Sources claim, the applicants are being asked to buy liquor from authorised liquor vend of the respective excise district even before obtaining the licence. Though they were asked to deposit the licence fee of Rs 5,000 with the department, they were handed over the licence only after they show the cash receipt of the liquor purchased from the authorised vendor of the particular area. Social activist Ajay Sehgal was to host his daughter’s wedding at a marriage palace on GT Road on December 4 last year. His family applied for the L-50 A permit but was first asked to buy liquor from the authorised liquor contractor of the area.

“However, I was compelled to come under obligation and pressure of complying with the instructions of the dealing officer of the Excise Department that I must purchase at least 36 bottles of liquor from the dealer,” said Sehgal.

He also alleged that though he wanted to serve high-end brands of Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) in his daughter’s marriage, he was asked to buy some cheap brands as only those were available with the local vendor that time.

“How can they pressure us to buy only those brands available with the liquor dealer? They should grant permission to buy our preferred brand from anywhere in the district,” said Sehgal.

No cap on liquor prices, contractors mint huge profits

Though the state government in a notification issued on March 29 last year has clearly mentioned that the retail licensee should not charge more for brands to be sold under L-50A permit than the rates fixed by the Excise Commissioner, the state excise policy for the current fiscal year has not prescribed any upper limit for the pricing of liquor.

Surprisingly, the notification states that in the first violation, contractors should be fined for up to Rs 1 lakh and even the penalty was to be doubled in the second violation and the closing down of the vend for a month in case of the third violation.

As a liquor bottle only mentions the minimum price of the bottle, the extent of profit is being left to the liquor contractors to decide by selling bottles at their own specified rates. Some liquor vends were even found to have been charging enormous rates for beer.

Permit can be obtained from sewa kendras

Though the aforesaid notification has asked the respective district administration to ensure the issuance of liquor permit L-50A to be obtained to serve liquor in marriages through Sewa Kendra, the information is kept under wraps by stakeholders.

People who are not aware about the same are approaching the Excise Department directly to obtain permit under the L-50 A form. There is no report of even a single permit issued by the respective suwidha kendra of a district following which they would be free to buy the brand and quantity of bottles as per their requirements.

Controversy due to stringent norms: DETC

Deputy Commissioner, Excise and Taxation (DETC), Jaspinder Singh, said the controversy had erupted due to the stringent norms being imposed by the department.

“Instead of conducting raids and harassing people in events such as marriages, it is better to first ensure that liquor is being purchased from the authorised vendors only. Hence, we ask them to first purchase it before we hand over the permit to them,” he said.

However, supporting the move by liquor contractors to force people to buy at least a minimum of three liquor cases for marriage, he said the move was to prevent any further purchase of liquor from unauthorised vendors.

“Though there is no such rule to force people to buy minimum quantity of liquor from the authorised vendor, but the move has prevented a majority of the people from buying additional liquor from unauthorised sources,” said Singh. When asked as to why the department is issuing the permit directly and not through sewa kendra as mentioned in the notification, he said it would not serve much purpose as the department only had to issue the permit and not the kendras.

Overpricing goes unchecked

In Jalandhar, the Excise department has so far issued over 1,100 permits alone under L-50A. As there is no capping on the upper price limit of a liquor bottle, overpricing is unchecked in the region. Many vendors are even selling liquor almost double the price of the minimum rate mentioned on the bottle.

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