New Excise Policy will minimise corruption, provide fair competition, Delhi Govt. tells High Court

The policy, which divides Delhi into 32 zones and leaves only 16 players eligible for the trade, is giving rise to fear of monopoly

Delhi government on Thursday told the Delhi High Court that its new Excise Policy 2021-22 aims at minimising corruption and providing fair competition in liquor trade and that all apprehensions against it were only fanciful. The AAP government also said that there was full-scale assault on it on the issue and that a reply would be filed to make its stand clear.

Several petitions have been filed challenging the new Excise Policy before the high court which had earlier refused to pass any stay order.

When the fresh pleas came up for hearing on Thursday, a Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued notice and sought reply from Delhi government and Central government.

It did not pass any order on staying the policy or extending the July 20 deadline for applying for tender under the policy.

When one of the counsel opposing the policy submitted that in the new policy which divides Delhi into 32 zones, only 16 players could be permitted in the market and would lead to monopoly, the Bench said such control was for public welfare and not for those in liquor business.

“Control is for public welfare and not for you to run your business. It is for public at large. It is not meant for you to run your business or put you in difficulty,” the Bench said.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Delhi government, submitted that “there is a full-scale assault on us. I will put in a reply. The policy minimises corruption, gives fair competition." Since the court heard the first challenge to the policy on July 12, eight petitions have come before different Benches, Mr. Singhvi along with Delhi government standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi said adding that petitions are by persons well-versed in liquor business.

The court was hearing a fresh challenge to the New Excise Policy by Ashiana Towers and Promoters Pvt Ltd and Rajiv Motors Pvt. Ltd , which alleged that it is illegal, unfair, arbitrary and violative of the Delhi Excise Act of 2009.

Counsel Sanyam Khetarpal, appearing for two companies, said "32 zones would lead to 16 players in the market. Where would the others go?” The petition also seeks to quash the June 28 e-tender notice of Delhi government, prescribing the procedure to be followed for inviting zone wise electronic bids for grant of 32 zonal licences of retail vends of liquor for supply of Indian and foreign liquor brands in the national capital.

The court also issued notice and sought reply from Delhi government on a petition by Anita Chaudhary, a wholesale licensee of liquor in Uttar Pradesh.

Advocate Sanchar Anand, appearing for Chaudhary, argued that policy is beyond the rule making power of the government under the Delhi Excise Act and violates Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

He said his client challenges the eligibility criteria of having at least five years’ experience for applying of L-1 wholesale liquor license under the policy.

“Wholesale, trade in liquor is actually very simple and does not requires any special technical knowledge or skill, much less 5 years experience.. no other State in India except the State of Delhi insists for 5 years prior experience for a whole sale liquor licence.”, the petition said. While the petition by the companies would be heard on August 9, Chaudhary’s petition would be heard next on August 27.

On Monday, the bench had refused to stay the new Excise Policy and issued notice to the Delhi government on the petition by Readymade Plaza India Pvt Ltd, a group of retail liquor vendors. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Readymade Plaza, had said by the new Excise Policy, Delhi will be divided into 32 zones and a person can bid for two zones and the policy will lead to complete monopoly of the few big players.

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