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Delhi HC's new order on cancellation of liquor vend licence: All you need to know

According to the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22, retail liquor vends can be operationalised in any markets, malls, commercial roads/areas, local shopping complexes, and other such places as long as Rule 51 of the policy is abided by (HT_PRINT)Premium
According to the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22, retail liquor vends can be operationalised in any markets, malls, commercial roads/areas, local shopping complexes, and other such places as long as Rule 51 of the policy is abided by (HT_PRINT)

The HC dismissed the appeal of the excise department and noted that the grant of licence under the act and rules framed under it are not subject to 'public sentiment'

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The Delhi High Court has ruled that a license under the Delhi Excise Act, 2009 cannot be cancelled merely due to public opinion or sentiment about the location of a liquor vend.

The ruling, which upholds the Financial Commissioner’s order on restoring the licence to a restaurant in June 2019, came on an appeal filed by the Department of Excise.

What is the case about?

The licence of 2 Bandits Restaurant was cancelled by the excise department in January 2018, following “apprehension of a law and order situation". This order, however, was set aside by the Financial Commissioner in June 2019 and the restaurant's license was restored.

The excise department challenged this last month in the Delhi HC, stating it has ample powers under the Delhi Excise Act to cancel a licence for any reason whatsoever.

What did the court say?

Justice Yashwant Varma dismissed the appeal of the excise department and noted that the grant of licence under the act and rules framed under it are not subject to "public sentiment".

“The apprehension of a law and order situation is clearly a different issue altogether which must necessarily be looked into by the police authorities concerned. Unless the licence of the liquor vend is shown to fall foul of any statutory provision or otherwise established to be in violation of any rule or regulation, the same cannot possibly merit cancellation merely because ‘public sentiment’ may be opposed to its location," said Justive Verma. 

“While the court is aware that principles of res extra commercium (outside commerce) apply to trade in liquor, that would not justify the cancellation of a licence validly granted and which is not established to be in violation of the law," said the court. 

What do the rules say? 

According to the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22, retail liquor vends can be operationalised in any markets, malls, commercial roads/areas, local shopping complexes, and other such places as long as Rule 51 of the policy is abided by. 

Rule 51 of the Delhi Excise Rules, 2010 says that no retail vend can be located within 100 metres of major educational institutions, religious places and hospitals with 50 beds and above.

Further, the policy also states that the vendors must ensure no dry snacks or cooked food outlet gets opened right outside the vend so that people are not encouraged to consume liquor and loiter around the shop. 

Delhi HC order on bar timings 

The HC recently directed the Excise Commissioner and the Delhi Police Commissioner to constitute a consultative group to examine the feasibility of extending the operational timing of places of public entertainment up to 3 am. 

The order was passed by Justice Varma on a petition by the National Restaurant Association of India which sought to restrain the Delhi Police from interfering with the operation and running of restaurants and bars till 3 am in terms of the excise policy.

The court observed that while it does not intend to stand in the way of the excise department framing a policy, the same has to be “harmonised with" the police's authority to regulate the operational timing of eating houses and places of public entertainment.

 

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