Chandigarh, January 25
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has put the Union of India on notice on a petition by a liquor firm for quashing the “freezing order” dated January 19 under the provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
One of the contentions by petitioner AS and Company was that the action was based on the fact that one of its partners to the extent of 25 per cent share, Akshay Chhabra, was arrested in a case under the NDPS Act. In his disclosure, Chhabra had allegedly stated he had invested Rs 3.35 crore as security for seeking liquor vends licence.
In its petition placed before Justice Vinod S Bhardwaj’s Bench, the petitioner through senior advocate RS Rai with counsel Gautam Dutt and Rubina Vermani contended the firm, vide the order, had been restrained from “transferring, selling, gifting, mortgaging, bequeathing or otherwise dealing with, in any manner, with the liquor vends except with prior permission”.
It was submitted that the investigating agency was yet to carry out the probe in terms of Section 68E of the NDPS Act and was obligated to first identify the property belonging to the accused. In the investigation so far, “no iota of evidence has been found to link the petitioners/partnership firm of having indulged in any narcotics trade or of having invested any proceeds of the crime”.
Rai added the partnership firm had already expelled Chhabra vide a dissolution-deed dated November 18, 2022, and a new partnership-deed had also been submitted to the Department of Excise and Taxation, Punjab.
The notice issued by the Bench was accepted on the respondent’s behalf by senior standing counsel Sourabh Goel. Additional Solicitor-General of India Satya Pal Jain added the order itself allowed the petitioners to approach the competent authority or the investigating officer at the first instance for seeking permission to carry on with the operations and that the same could be granted by the officer as well.
Before parting with the case, Justice Bhardwaj asserted the investigating officer/competent authority would not be debarred from taking a decision, if the petitioners preferred a representation giving details of their claim. The pendency of the present petition would not act as an impediment.
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