Thursday, November 21, 2019

Posted at: Nov 8, 2019, 7:22 AM; last updated: Nov 8, 2019, 7:22 AM (IST)

High Court raps excise officials for ‘arbitrary’ grant of liquor licences

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 7

Rapping Haryana Excise and Taxation Commissioner and Ambala Deputy Excise and Taxation Commissioner in a case revolving around the grant of liquor licences, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has slapped costs of Rs 25,000 on each of them. The amount is to be paid personally.

The Bench of Justice Jaswant Singh and Justice Lalit Batra also directed the forwarding of the order’s copy to Haryana Chief Secretary for appropriate action in accordance with law against the Ambala-respondent DETC for subverting the process of law.

The direction came on a petition by M/s Sunny Wines through senior advocate Mohan Jain and Vikram Jain for directing the Excise Department to grant the L-1 licence and L-13 licence for excise year 2019-20. L-1 is the wholesale liquor licence for Indian-made foreign liquor. L-13, on the other hand, is wholesale liquor licence for country liquor.

The Bench was told that the official respondents had knowingly promoted monopoly by giving the L-1 and L-13 licence to certain respondents even though they applied after the last date.

The Bench observed the petitioner was the only applicant for the leftover L-1 and L-13 licence on the last date of applying — April 4. Applications were not submitted by two other respondents till the closing of the last date as per a public notice issued by the Excise and Taxation Commissioner.

“Thus, as on the closing date of April 4, the petitioner was only retail licensee applicant for available L-1 and L-13 licences for Ambala district...The DETC (Excise), Ambala, illegally and without jurisdiction and authority extended the last date of application for private respondents in contravention of the existing Excise Policy 2019-20,” the Bench asserted.

It added the courts being the custodian of law had a solemn duty to uphold the “rule of law” under all circumstances by directing the authorities concerned to act in accordance with the law. “The action by DETC, Ambala, was taken with/or indirect object/motive to favour respondents (allotted conditional liquor licences) at the cost of the legitimate right of the petitioner. Collector-cum-Additional ETC, exercising powers as ETC, Haryana, also cannot be further absolved of his overall legal duty to ensure that the final actions are taken in accordance with the law and by due application of mind. Hence, they are burdened with cost of Rs 25,000 each to be paid personally,” the Bench asserted.

The Bench added it showed that the ETC and the DETC acted in the “most arbitrary and illegal manner”.


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