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Bar owners move HC against liquor policy


Eatery and pub owners have filed a writ petition in the Punjab and Haryana high court contesting the Manohar Lal Khattar government’s decision to appoint a single wholesaler for imported foreign liquor for the entire state.

The petition was filed in the court under the banner of the National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI) on Monday, the same day when Sanjeev Mehta of Ashir Marketing (India) Private Limited won the bid as the sole wholesaler.

Rahul Singh, Haryana chapter head of NRAI, said the association filed the petition after sending a legal notice to the state excise department on March 18 as “the government’s move is detrimental for the trade and affects consumers’ interests”.

“A similar modification was done in the neighbouring Punjab as well, but it was quashed by the court as it was contravening the provisions in the Excise Act, which encourages competition among the sellers, thereby discouraging malpractices such as formation of liquor mafia and adulteration,” Singh told TOI on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the contract for the L-1BF category for the imported foreign liquor was allotted to Mehta of Ashir Marketing for Rs 62.5 crore on Monday evening. The same licence before the amendment took place was allotted to 5,000 people at Rs 10 lakh each.

Singh also said the move to increase the licence fees and the new bidding process would directly impact the restaurant and bar owners because consumers could get cheaper imported liquor from the neighbouring states.

Restaurant owners in the city are also furious over the government’s move. Pawan Soni, the owner of Prankster, a restaurant in Sector 29, said the new policy would lead to a steep decline in the discounts which have been offered by vendors up till now on account of competition.

“We are already paying increased duty on liquor, the discounts will also come down. This along with the whimsical pricing by the monopolist wholesaler will make a steep rise in the overall pricing of liquor,” said Soni.

The move may also upset the current structure and model in which imported liquor is procured and sold in Gurgaon. “An artificial scarcity could also be created by the move. Each business has competition and that is what ensures a fair process, which this move might hamper,” said Soni.

Sandy Verma, the owner of Sandys Cocktails & Kitchen, said bootlegging would go up “as people will find means to smuggle liquor from other states where it is cheaper”.

Source: Times of India

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