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Delhi HC demands response from govt on 'zamindari' excise policy

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A liquor shop worker (L) wearing gloves gives bottles of alcohol to a customer through the shutters of the shop after the government eased a nationwide lockdown

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A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh of the Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued a notice asking the AAP government for its response to a plea filed by the Delhi Liquor Traders Association. The plea argues that the government's New Excise Policy 2021 restores the unconstitutional zamindari system and enables a monopolistic cartel. The association claims to represent 143 licensed liquor traders in Delhi and two liquor license holders. The court has also sought a response from the Centre and the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.

The court had refused to issue a notice on the petition last month as the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi and some unknown entities had been named respondents. An amended memo was then filed after deleting the parties.

The petition, filed through advocate Arvind Bhatt and Siddharth Sharma, argues that the New Excise Policy is unconstitutional and unworkable. Though traders don't have the fundamental right to trade in liquor, they have a right to complain against denial of continuation of existing license and killing competition, they argued.

"There are number of other legal challenges as well, including the facilitating of monopolistic cartel; while debarring the non-super-rich and thus killing all competition. In a way, it seeks to restore the Zamindari system of the British era (for land revenue) and which was abolished once the Constitution came into the force on 26.01.1950," the petition reads. It further added that with the policy, "crores collected, in effect, as taxes would not reach the consolidated fund". The petition seeks a directive declaring that the sovereign right to collect taxes cannot be auctioned by way of the New Excise Policy, and thus, all consequential actions, including the tender for granting zonal licences, are bad in law.

Delhi government has stated that its new Excise Policy 2021-22 aims to minimise corruption and provide fair competition in the liquor trade and that all apprehensions against it were only fanciful.

The AAP government had said that there was a full-scale assault on it on the issue and that a reply would be filed to make its stand clear.

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TAGS:New excise policy Delhi govt Delhi HC 
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