Home >Politics >News >Liquor a privilege, Delhi govt tells court in defence of 70% corona cess
Excise duty on liquor is a state subject and accordingly, the state is also free to impose and recover a price for grant of such privilege. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Excise duty on liquor is a state subject and accordingly, the state is also free to impose and recover a price for grant of such privilege. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Liquor a privilege, Delhi govt tells court in defence of 70% corona cess

  • The Delhi government filed this reply against a batch of petitions challenging its 4 May notification levying 70% special corona fees on liquor in the capital. The plea is likely to be heard on Friday.

Liquor trade and consumption is not a fundamental right, but a privilege and the state has the authority to regulate its trade, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government told the Delhi high court on Thursday.

In response to a batch of petitions challenging its 4 May notification to levy a "special corona fee’’ on liquor, the Delhi government in its affidavit added that it was free to accord or regulate liquor prices as per the state excise law. The pleas are likely to be heard on Friday.

The affidavit also cited similar actions by 10 other states, including Assam, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

It further argued that owing to the clampdown on all economic activities to contain the covid-19 outbreak, the state government’s revenue, which primarily comprises value-added tax (VAT) and goods and services tax (GST) collection, state excise and stamp duty, had shrunk by almost 90% in April, to a mere 300 crore, compared to about 4,000 crore in April 2019.

“Between 4 May and 25 May, the total sale of operational liquor vends has been 187 crore, which is way too less as compared to the sales figure of May 2019, as the number of vends operational last year were about 800 and, as of now, only 40% of them were operational due to various restrictions imposed by the government in view of the coronavirus outbreak," it said.

The government said the total excise revenue collected by the state during 4 May to 25 May was around 227.44 crore, which includes 127 crore in special corona fee. In comparison, it had collected a revenue of 425.24 crore in May 2019.

A batch of petitions were filed before the Delhi high court challenging the state government’s decision to levy a “corona fee" on the ground that it was arbitrary, as the maximum retail price included taxes, duties and levies. Another plea had alleged that the Delhi Excise Act does not empower the state to levy any fee or charges except as provided under section 26 of the Act.

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