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Welcome to Excise Dept’s ‘drink till you drop’ party


Is the government indirectly forcing people to drink more? Yes, says an advocate who has represented 31 bars and restaurants in court against the earlier government policy of minimum alcohol sales in bars.

KV Dhananjay has written two letters to the chief minister in this regard on December 17 and December 28. This comes in the backdrop of the chief minister holding a meeting with revenue officials about the drop in revenue collections following the currency demonetisation.

The letter to the CM says, “Excise Officers across Karnataka are forcing liquor bars to serve excessive liquor to customers to earn more revenue – a) due to the state government failing to earn sufficient revenue and b) to bribe excise officers and their political masters in the wake of huge personal losses suffered by them due to the November demonetization; And, coerced liquor bars are witnessing the disastrous consequences of forcing more liquor upon their patrons – more brawls, more violence, more assaults and cries from distressed and bruised family members.” The issue also has a long legal battle behind it. In 2003, the state government brought in a regulation that stipulated that liquor vendors in the state had to sell a minimum quantity of hard liquor per month. This was as high as 468 litres for bars in Bengaluru.

The vendors had to pay a penalty of Rs 100 for every litre of liquor they failed to sell. This was challenged in court. While a single judge bench held it unconstitutional, a division bench reversed the single judge order.

However, the government took back the regulation in 2014. Starting 2015, the Excise Department started issuing notices to vendors to pay the penalty for ‘short lifting’ of liquor between 2006 and 2014. 31 bars and restaurants approached the HC again with Dhananjay representing them. A division bench on December 27 rejected the contentions saying the court had decided the matter in 2005 itself.

In his letter, Dhananjay says, “The problem, however, is that the Excise Department has commenced a coercion spree across Karnataka in the wake of last month’s demonetization by the Central Government. The 31 bars, however, are not being troubled in by the Excise Department. Still, as I pointed out at the very beginning, I write here in public interest.”

The letters allege that bars are being pressurised to sell more liquor so that they can pay the penalty demanded by the department in the earlier notices. “On the pretext that the State Government has run out of cash in its coffers, Excise Officers across Karnataka have been coercing owners of bars to force feed their customers with more liquor to collect more revenue for the State Government; reluctant bars are being pressurized into submission by the Excise Officers. Bars across Karnataka have been instructed to suddenly earn lakhs of rupees by serving excessive liquor to their customers so that penalties for short consumption in all the past and present periods can be quickly recovered from the public. You may confirm this truth from senior officers in the Excise Department,” it says.

Source: Bangalore mirror

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