The Delhi High Court Thursday sought response from Delhi government on a petition challenging a notice inviting bids for grant of 12 zonal retail licenses under the New Excise Policy 2021-22 on the ground of being manifestly arbitrary, discriminatory and unworkable. A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued notice on a petition by an inpidual who intends to undertake liquor retail business in the city.
Senior counsel Darpan Wadhwa, representing the petitioner, said that the new Excise Policy introduced home delivery of liquor which may impact the business of retail vendors.
“Retail vends have the idea of proximity. When they start home delivery, nobody will ever buy from me and the business that I have. Everybody can sell from anywhere,” the senior counsel argued.
However, the court said the government policy is for the benefit of the people and not for the “earning”.
“Your issue is that your policy curtails your income. Policy is for welfare of public and not your earning. What items are you not getting at home? Look around – books, mobile, clothes..,” said the bench.
The petitioner submitted that the August 13 notice inviting tender does not clarify if the holder of the Home Delivery License shall procure liquor from the zonal liquor retailer or the wholesaler or if it would be allowed to set up a centralized warehouse and function as retailer cum wholesaler.
“Granting home delivery license would severally impact the recovery of the assured Annual License Fee or excise revenue promised to the NCT of Delhi by a zonal liquor retailer,” said the petition filed through advocate Siddharth Sharma.
The plea said that the policy itself is incomplete and leaves out “various aspect involving the trade of liquor unanswered”.
The petition will be heard along with other matters pertaining to the new Excise policy on September 24.
Several petitions are pending before the court against the New Excise Policy on the ground that it is illegal, unfair, arbitrary and violative of the Delhi Excise Act, 2009.
Last month, the court had orally stated that the actions taken by the Delhi government pursuant to its New Excise Policy 2021 will be subject to the outcome of petitions challenging the new regime.
In July, the court had refused to stay the policy on the petition by Readymade Plaza India Pvt Ltd which contended that the new regime would lead to complete monopoly of the few big players.
The Delhi government has defended it’s New Excise Policy 2021, saying that the new regime would generate optimum revenue and ensure ease of doing business while eliminating cartelization, proxy players, and monopoly.
In its response to the pending petitions, it said that privatization of government liquor vends and re-distribution of all liquor vends equitably across the national capital “would most certainly lead to a manifold increase in free competition and overwhelm existing cartels in the market”.
Asserting that the citizens of India have no fundamental right to trade in liquor, the government said that the new policy was formulated in larger public interest and since it is a matter of economic policy, it does not warrant judicial interference.
License regarding home delivery of liquor has been in existence since long and would now result in less overcrowding outside the liquor store/shops, it added.