Delhi govt. says liquor not a fundamental right, defends special fee over alcohol

Trade or consumption of liquor is not a fundamental right and the state has the authority to regulate its sale, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government told the Delhi High Court maintaining that its levying 70 per cent “special corona fees” on MRP of all alcohol brands is a price for grant of such privilege to the public.

The Delhi government opposed a number of petitions challenging its notification released on 4th May, levying the special fee on liquor, and said there was an element of privilege with sale/dealing in liquor and the state is free to regulate it under the excise law.

“Accordingly the state is also free to impose and recover a price for grant of such privilege. Such imposition need not be either a tax or a fee yet less excise duty, or for that matter form part of Excise revenue.”

“The present impugned levy (special corona fee) is nothing but a combination of price of such privilege and cost of such regulation and supervision,” the Delhi government’s Department of Excise said in an affidavit filed in response to the petitions.The pleas are listed for hearing in the court on Friday.

“A citizen, therefore, has no fundamental right to do trade or business in liquor or for that matter also to consume liquor. On the other hand, the State has the authority and jurisdiction to regulate (including prohibit totally or partially) such trade and commerce as well as to regulate the sale, purchase and consumption of liquor,” the Delhi government said.

Besides Delhi, 10 other states, Assam, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have imposed similar fees, it said.

A batch of petitions were filed, including advocate Lalit Valecha and Praveen Gulati, challenging levy of “special corona fees”.Mr Valecha has argued in his petition that the fees is in excess of what has been authorised by law and accordingly it is being collected arbitrarily.In his petition, he has said that the order of levying fee was an afterthought and an after effect of the overcrowding and violation of social distancing norms outside liquor shops.

The unprecedented levy of the special fees by the Delhi government resulting in overall increase in MRP (maximum retail price) of the liquor by 70 per cent was “arbitrary, uncalled for and bad in law”, the petition has alleged.

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