HC dismisses plea challenging new Excise Policy on liquor

The High Court on Monday dismissed a petition challenging government’s Excise Policy for e-Auction of Retail Liquor Vends in Jammu and Kashmir for 2021-22.

While dismissing the petition by one SandeepChattoo, a bench of Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey said: “Trade in liquor cannot be claimed as a matter of right. It is so as the Supreme Court has time and again opined that there is no fundamental right to trade in liquor”.  

The bench said that it is a right conferred by the State and consequently there is no scope for claiming renewal of license which in the past was followed as a matter of course and such practice being contrary to law, cannot be sought to be enforced in Court.  The Court said this while dismissing Chattoo’s plea who sought to aside the Excise policy through senior advocate MohsinQadri. On behalf of the government Advocate General D C Raina defended the policy. 

The court rejected the petitioner’s contention that his right was violated by the new Excise policy and that he should be allowed to run the trade at Batwara here under his already renewed license till 2023.

The court pointed out that the government has rightly framed the Excise Policy for 2021-22.  “The petitioner’s right for running trade of Retail Sale of Foreign Liquor and Indian Made Foreign Liquor, including (Beer), at Batawara, Srinagar, within BadamiBagh, cantonment area, is not a fundamental or legal right to trade, as declared by this Court on the strength of already laid down law by the Supreme Court”.

The trade in liquor, the court said, is restricted and is regulated by the policies of the Government. “Merely because petitioner has opened his liquor vend at a particular place will not mean that he has earned any fundamental right to trade as guaranteed under the Constitution of India on permanent basis”.

The Court held that the petitioner’s right is only to compete the process of auction and if declared successful could be allowed to run the trade of liquor that too for the specified period and beyond that there was no guarantee. 

In his petition Chattoo had submitted that he was only person, permitted to run the trade of liquor in BadamiBagh Cantonment area by the Cantonment Board, therefore, there was no scope for auction of the vend for the area.

He said the sale profit margin attached with the sale of the liquor pursuant to the Excise Policy was not enough to run a business of liquor in the peculiar circumstances of Kashmir Valley, owing to the escalated transportation fair and the payment to the employees, which is considerably high in the area like Srinagar than that of Jammu Region.

“The reasonable classification is not made in the policy which as per him is essential ingredient for framing the excise policy as regards the sale of liquor in the Kashmir Valley” he said.

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