Top court refuses to interfere with closing of Delhi’s private liquor vends under new policy

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The Supreme Court on Friday closed the doors upon 260 private liquor vends in the Capital seeking a last-minute indulgence to remain operational beyond September 30, the cut-off date prescribed under the Delhi Government’s New Excise Policy for private liquor vends to shut shop.

As per the new policy that will come into force from November 17, the Delhi Government had required all existing liquor vends to close by September 30. For the period from October 1 till November 16, only government liquor vends were allowed to remain open to cater to the festive season rush. After November 17, even the government liquor vends were to close.

Demanding parity with government liquor vends to operate till November 16, the private liquor vends, mostly operating in malls, told the Supreme Court that during Diwali there would be chaos at the government liquor vends and to avoid this, it would be fair and just in public interest for private liquor vends to meet the Capital’s liquor demands.

The Court was hearing separate appeals filed by Radinton Tradex Private Limited and one Harish Chauhan against interim orders passed by the Delhi High Court which had refused to stall the rollout of the new Excise Policy. The Delhi Liquor Traders Association had approached the Delhi High Court against the New Excise Policy which is still under consideration.

The bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and CT Ravikumar said, “We are not inclined to entertain these petitions” and asked, “What larger public interest will be served if the private liquor vends are allowed to operate till November 16”.

Senior advocates Vikas Singh and Sidharth Luthra appearing for the private liquor vends told the Court, “The rush outside government liquor vends is huge and this can be avoided if we are allowed to operate. Also, the state will earn revenue as we sell top quality liquor for which the customers in the Capital will go to neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.”

The Delhi Government appeared on caveat and was represented by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi who argued that the old policy was meant to expire on September 30 to ensure smooth, seamless transfer to the new excise policy. In all, there are 849 liquor stores in Delhi of which more than 260 are privately-run, holding L7 and L10 licenses. Singhvi said that the state had power to bring the new excise policy under the Delhi Excise Act 2009 and the corresponding Rules and this challenge was pending before the Delhi High Court.

The Delhi government had earlier stated that the new policy was introduced to usher in reforms to boost revenues, give a better experience to customers, and crack down on the liquor mafia.

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