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SC orders fresh auction of 1,140 liquor vends in Haryana
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, June 7
Virtually upholding the Punjab and Haryana High Court order quashing allotment of liquor vends through negotiated deals by the Haryana Government for this year, the Supreme Court today ordered fresh auction of all 1,140 such vends by July 31.

The court gave a breather of two months to 124 such allottees given 993 of the 1,140 vends by allowing them to continue with their trade till July 31 taking into consideration their plea that they had spent a substantial amount on development of the liquor shops and outright cancellation would cause them huge financial losses.

A Bench of Mr Justice Arijit Pasayat and Mr Justice C.K. Thakker, while ordering fresh auction clarified that the new licences would be given by the Excise and Taxation Department for the next eight months of the financial year 2006-07 from August 1 after taking all corrective measures to call fresh applications of intended bidders, including those by the present allottees.

The court further said if the existing allottees failed to get the vends in the fresh competitive bids, the licence fee deposited by them as per the negotiated deals, would be refunded to them in proportionate to their use of liquor licence to do business for the period of four months from April to July.

The state government had approved a total of 4,400 vends for auction this year, including 1,600 shops of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL).

When in three rounds of bidding between March 17 and 30 as many as 1,140 shops remained unallotted, the Excise and Taxation Commissioner had issued a notification on March 30 inviting applications for allotments in negotiated deals and offered shops at a much reduced rate of Rs 10 lakh licence fee. In this way 993 shops were sold out of the 1,140 unclaimed ones by the government, which realised a revenue of Rs 152 crore on this account.

But, government’s decision to sell the shops through negotiation was struck down by the High Court when challenged by some allottees who got the shops in open bids for a price as high as Rs 35 lakh. It was alleged by them that the negotiated allotment was “ploy” to allot the vends to some select people at a reduced rates to extend benefit to them.

Of the 993 shops actually allotted through negotiation and ordered re-auction by the court, included 821 that of country liquor and 172 of IMFL. With the order, the court disposed of a bunch of appeals against the High Court order.

The High Court in its May 11 judgement had termed these allotments as “far beyond fairness and transparency”.

The state government’s main argument for selling shops in negotiated deals was that it would have incurred daily revenue loss of Rs 50 lakh due to a large number of shops remaining unsold in the open bidding.

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