Delhi government Monday told the Delhi High Court that till now, 200 liquor brands have been registered under the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 and MRP has been fixed for 184 of them.
The AAP government told Justice Rekha Palli, who was hearing pleas by several retail liquor traders, that 192 brands have already paid the registration fee under the new policy.
Out of the remaining eight, three have withdrawn and the process was ongoing for five, senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, told the court. The court directed that the Delhi government's status report in the matter be placed on record and listed the case for further hearing on November 16.
The petitioners are successful bidders for licences for the operation of retail liquor vends and seek to declare the decision of the Delhi government to levy licence fees with effect from November 1, 2021, as illegal. On November 9, the high court had asked the Delhi government to inform it about the number of liquor brands where MRPs are fixed and those yet to be done under the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22.
It had also asked the Delhi government to inform whether registration of any liquor brands has already been done. On November 11, the Delhi government had orally assured the court that no coercive action would be taken against liquor retailers for the time being for not paying the licence fees.
No precipitate action would be taken against the traders for now since they are partners in the business, it was said. The petitioners are successful bidders of L-7Z (zonal licence for retail vend of Indian liquor and foreign liquor) and L-7V (retail vend of Indian liquor, foreign liquor in a zone).
Senior advocates Maninder Singh and lawyer Tanmaya Mehta, representing the liquor retailers, had earlier argued that the government cannot direct the petitioners to pay the licence fee with effect from November 1 as the payment of licence fee depends on commencement of business and that the authorities have not fixed the MRP of most of the brands and have no right to direct them to pay the fee.
The pleas also seek to restrain the government from demanding the sums of money in the form of licence fees or security deposit and also to direct the authorities not to levy or demand licence fees from the successful bidders until the government performs its obligations under the tender terms and conditions and the Delhi Excise policy 2021-2022.
It also sought to postpone the date for the scheduled commencement of business from November 17. One of the pleas filed by 15 retailers, through advocates Sanjay Abbot and Ankit Agarwal, said there has been a great delay in initiating the process of registration of brands and fixation of MRP by the Delhi Government under the 2021-22 policy.
It claimed that until October 30, not even a single brand had been registered within Delhi under the new excise policy, nor had the MRP been fixed or determined under the new policy. It said the process from the determination of MRP to retail sale is a time-consuming exercise and if the scheduled date of commencement of business is November 17, is specified by the government, it is a complete breach of obligations on the part of the authorities in delaying the registration of brands and determination of MRP.
Several petitions are pending before the high court against the New Excise Policy on the ground that it is illegal, unfair, arbitrary, and violative of the Delhi Excise Act, 2009. In July, the court had refused to stay the new Excise Policy on one of the petitions which contended that the new regime would lead to a monopoly of the few big players.
The Delhi government, also represented through standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi, has defended its New Excise Policy 2021, saying that the new regime would generate optimum revenue and ensure ease of doing business while eliminating cartelisation, proxy players, and monopoly.
(Edited by : Aditi Gautam)