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Delhi govt halts issue of new liquor licences


Ambika.Pandit @timesgroup.com

New Delhi: The Delhi government will not issue new liquor licences to restaurants or mall shops for now as part of a policy decision that is likely to remain in force till the end of this financial year.

The AAP government has directed the excise department not to grant any new liquor licence till further orders. The issue is expected to be placed before the cabinet for ratification soon.

Under the partly notified Excise Policy 2016, the government had already decided not to issue licences to any new government or private liquor vend in the current fiscal.

Implementing the latest decision will not be easy. The government may well face protests and legal action from a large number of entities whose applications for new licences are pending with the excise department. Some of them have even paid the licence fee as per procedural requirements.

> Delhi govt directs excise dept to stop issuing liquor licences to restaurants, mall shops. Policy may continue for rest of fiscal year
> Protests likely as many applications are pending approval, with some having paid licence fee as well
> Earlier, govt had put a bar on licences for new govt and private liquor vends

The National Restaurant Association of India has be-en opposing any move to stop issuance of liquor licences. It has written to the excise department and the office of deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia.

The decision appears to be influenced by the Yogendra Yadavled Swaraj Abhiyan’s campaign which said the go-vernment was on an overdrive in granting liquor licences.

Existing vends enough to meet demand: Govt

NRAI said stopping licences will not just impact the restaurant business in Delhi but also lead to law and order issues.

On September 30, the association wrote to lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung, saying no new licences were being issued for the past couple of months. They also sought an audience with the LG on the issue.

Delhi government’s data shows there are 704 restaurants with bar licences and 399 mall shops with liquor licences in the city. The number of government-run vends stands at 350.

Times View It is difficult to avoid the suspicion here that this policy has more to do with AAP’s ambitions in Punjab and the manner in which it has positioned itself in that state, than with what the party believes is in the interests of Delhi. If that is true, it is most unfortunate. Delhi’s excise policy must be determined by what is best for Delhi, not by what dovetails best into anybody’s campaign in a different state.

The AAP government argues that the existing number of liquor vends is enough to meet the city’s demand. Sources said a similar cap on liquor licences was imposed in 2004-05 by the then Congress government.However, the decision cannot be dissociated from recent political developments, particularly the attack launched by sociopolitical or-ganization, Swaraj Abhiyan, which said the AAP government had gone overboard in granting liquor licences and promoting alcohol, which was against AAP’s commitment to fight against addiction.

The BJP too had attacked AAP on the issue, which saw heated debates in the assembly with rebel AAP MLA Pankaj Pushkar and BJP’s Vljender Gupta criticising the government’s policy. Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, who is also the minister in-charge of finance and excise, refuted the charge and put out data to counter the opponents.

Whatever be the motivation, the decision is all set to cause a flutter in the restaurant industry. In his letter to Sisodia dated September 22, NRAI president Riyaaz Amlani had said, “Such a move (stop-ping new licences) will be a re-gressive step and goes against the government’s promise on ease of doing business. The industry was in fact expecting an automatic online system of giving licences to hospitality as has been done for event management industry”

Amlani pointed out that the number of licences for retail vends over the last two years had seen an increase of 48 %. In comparison, the licences for restaurants had increased by only 6%. “Restaurants provide for safe and licensed premises for liquor service. Any stop-page in Delhi will drive the customer, and more importantly the revenue to neighbouring states. With restaurants not getting licences, there will be an increase in law and order situation, since many persons would start to drink at retail vends, on roads and in cars,” Amlani stated.

Last week, the much delayed Excise Policy 2016 was partly notified by the Delhi government, introducing a duty regime which remains largely unchanged from the previous year. The policy states that no new licences will be provided for opening of private and government run liquor shops during the current financial year. The cabinet had earlier approved this policy, but then kept out the L10 licences for shops in malls. However, now the excise department has been directed to not to issue any licences till further orders to even applicants for shops in malls and restaurants. The cabinet’s decision to empower the yet to be established mohalla sabhas to decide if a liquor shop should be permitted in a residential area has not been notified yet as it will require changes in excise rules and is hence being sent to the LG’s office for approval.

Source : Times of India  

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