CHANDIGARH: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has on Tuesday issued notice to the government of Punjab asking it to explain why its new liquor policy should not be stayed following complaints of illegality.
The Aam Aadmi Party government in Punjab had brought in a new excise policy for the year 2022-23 on June 8, 2022. A petition filed in the high court by M/s Akash Enterprises and M/s Vijay Sharma and Harjinder Singh and others said that “as per the excise policy for the year 2022-23, the wine contractors holding L-2 retail vends are prohibited to participate in the allotment procedure of L-1 wholesale vend and the same is completely illegal, arbitrary, and ultra vires being in stark contrast with the provisions of Punjab Excise Act, 1914, and Punjab Liquor License Rules, 1956…”
The petitioners said that “L-1 (wholesale) liquor license holder is also running the L-2 (retail) vend, and now as per the conditions imposed by the respondents, no L-2 (retail) license holder can get L-1 (wholesale) vend just in order to create the monopoly of the near and dear one of the Delhi High command.”
The petitioners have alleged in the petition that the policy was made to favour some people who are “…near and dear to the head of the party in Delhi as all the meetings for L-1 is conducted in Delhi (and) the policy is also framed in Delhi.”
The petitioners have alleged that the new excise policy was drafted in such as way that it favoured a few and would end up creating a monopoly in the liquor business. They said that the maximum number of retail vends that could be allotted to an entity was increased to five from three, which “furthers the intent of monopolizing the liquor industry into the hands of a few resourceful bidders”.
The high court bench of Justice Mahabir Singh Sindhu and Justice Vikas Suri have asked the state government to send its response to the charges in petition by July 8.
That the Punjab excise policy was made in Delhi is a charge also made by BJP leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa in his complaint to the CBI. In his complaint, Sirsa has accused Delhi chief minister Manish Sisodia of holding a meeting at his Delhi residence on 30.05.22 with Punjab excise and taxation officials to draft a similar policy for Punjab.
Sirsa said the meeting at Sisodia’s residence was attended by Varun Runjan, excise and taxation commissioner, Punjab, Kap Sinha, financial commissioner, taxation, Punjab, Naresh Dubey, Vijay Nair, AAP Member of Parliament Raghav Chadha and Punjab excise minister Harpal Cheema. Sisodia did not respond to a detailed questionnaire sent to him by this newspaper on June 14. The Delhi government spokesperson, however, rejected Sirsa’s charges as baseless and politically motivated.
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