Delhi High Court seeks response from Delhi government on plea seeking extension of private retail liquor licenses

The Delhi High Court on Monday sought response from the Delhi Government and the Deputy Excise Commissioner upon a plea seeking extension of private retail liquor licenses till November 16, 2021.

The Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Amit Bansal issued notice in the plea by a private liquor vendor alleging that the retail licenses for private vends have not been extended beyond the end of this month.  

The matter is slated for further hearing on September 24.  Filed through Advocate N.P. Singh by one Rattan Singh, who is into the business of retail sale of liquor since February 2005, the plea highlights that the Delhi Government issued a notification on September 10, 2021, wherein it conveyed its decision to implement the New Excise Policy for the year 2021-22; and in order to ensure smooth and uninterrupted supply of authorized liquor in Delhi, it extended the period of excise licenses up to November 16, 2021, subject to payment of proportionate pro-rata license fee. 

The Delhi Government issued another order under Rule 42 of Delhi Excise Rules, 2010 conveying that the private retail licenses for retail sale of Indian and Foreign Liquor are valid only till September 30, 2021, and will not be extended/renewed any further beyond the said date.

The plea alleges that the order extends the period for grant of similar licenses to public sector till November 16, but the private vends have been granted a period only till September 30. The plea contends that the said decision exhibit an hostility towards private licensees viz-a-viz public sector licensee, which is impermissible as such an act is not only unreasonable but is also an arbitrary exercise of power vested in the licensing authority.

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In light of the above, the plea seeks quashing of the order dated September 10, 2021, passed under Rule 42 of the Delhi Excise Rules, 2010.

While stating that the said decision is discriminatory and is in clear violation of the equality principle enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution, the plea reads thus: 

“It is indisputable that the licensee under the Excise Act has no vested right in the liquor trade but when the State decides to grant some right or privileges then in that eventuality, the State must comply with equality clause while granting such privileges.”

A similar application was also preferred by Delhi Liquor Traders Association and two retail liquor vendors in their plea challenging the New Excise Policy for year 2021-22 announced by the Delhi Government in June this year. The Bench issued notice in the application and tagged the two matters with a batch of other petitions challenging the New Excise Policy.
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