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Restaurant fined Rs 7.6 lakh for not selling enough liquor


The allegation that the state government is indirectly forcing citizens to drink more by fixing a minimum amount of liquor that retail sellers, including bars and restaurants with licence, have to sell per month has been gaining ground recently. A letter sent in this regard to the chief minister by an advocate, representing around 30 retailers, created a lot of heat a couple of months ago. A few cases by retailers reached the courts too.

In another development, the High Court has dismissed a petition by a restaurant which had challenged the imposition of Rs 7.6 lakh fine by the Excise Department for selling less liquor. However, the petition was dismissed on technical grounds and the rule of ‘short lifting’ had not been challenged.

Hemant Gulati, a managing partner in the Banjara Aarhand Foods Pvt Ltd, approached the court, challenging the deputy commissioner, Bengaluru Urban District, who had imposed a penalty of Rs 7.61 lakh on the multi-cuisine restaurant. The fine was imposed “for having listed lesser quantity of 7,615 bulk litres of liquor during the period from July 2011 to July 2014”.

Banjara has licence to sell liquor in its bar and restaurant and had obtained the licence in 1997-98. The notice of penalty was dated April 22, 2015. In the reply to the notice, Banjara claimed that the restaurant was under repair between February 2012 and November 2012 and, therefore, the entire quantity of liquor “could not be lifted by him”. Despite that, a demand notice was issued on the penalty.

Challenging the notice, Gulati claimed that it is the Excise Commissioner or the deputy commissioner of excise who is authorised to issue such a notice, but in this case, it was issued by the deputy commissioner of Bengaluru. The department, however, contended that the DC is the licensing authority and, therefore, had the powers to issue the notice. Moreover, there is an alternative remedy for the petitioner to approach the Excise Commissioner with an appeal instead of filing a petition in the High Court.

The HC accepted the contention of the department that the DC can issue a notice and rejected that contention of the also that the notice can be challenged before the excise commissioner before approaching the HC. It thus dismissed the petition.

There are several instances where the penalty notices have been issued to bars and licenced liquor retailers across Karnataka for short lifting which are still pending.

Source: Bangalore Mirror

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