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Settle Punjab liquor dispute case early, SC tells HC
Our Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 23
The Supreme Court today directed the Punjab and Haryana High Court to dispose of a case pertaining to the Punjab liquor auction dispute as early as possible. The case pertained to the alleged prevention of a vendor from taking part in last year’s re-auction.

The vendor, Sanjiv Bhandari, had moved the High Court alleging that he was prevented from participating in the November 15 re-auction, conducted on the apex court’s order after it was quashed earlier in March 2004 by the High Court, following a controversy in the bids for Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar and Nawanshahar districts.

As per the apex court order, Bhandari, on whose petition the auction was struck down by the High Court, had to make good for the short fall in auction revenue, for the litigation indulged into by him.

The Punjab Government has moved a petition in the apex court for the recovery of the money from Bhandari, who according to the state did not deliberately participate in the re-auction, in which the state had suffered a loss of Rs 11 crore.

Government counsel Mr J. L. Gupta said the pendency of Bhandari’s petition in the High Court would delay the recovery of the money from him even as there was a clear direction from the apex court in this regard.

However, Bhandari’s counsel C. S. Vaidyanathan told the Court that his client was “physically” prevented from taking part in the re-auction because his participation would have upset a cartel of vendors, with whom state Excise Department officials were “hand in glove”.

This was the main reason for low auction price, for which Bhandari could not be held responsible, the counsel said, adding had he been allowed to participate in the bid the quotations would have been higher and the government would have not suffered any revenue loss.

The government counsel said it had already confiscated the Rs 6 crore security deposit of Bhandari and has yet to recover the remaining Rs 5 crore


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