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Last updated: 30 Mar, 2023  

Wine.9.Thmb.jpg High Court grants relief for Chandigarh international airport liquor shops

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IANS | 30 Mar, 2023
In a major relief, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has allowed Liquor World to operate the duty-paid liquor shops at the Chandigarh International Airport Ltd (CHAIL), renamed after martry Bhagat Singh, till the next date of hearing.

The order came as the court heard two petitions -- one filed by Liquor World Venture Pvt Ltd, which has been awarded contract for five years and extended due to Covid-19 pandemic up to 2027 by CHAIL, and another by CHAIL itself which is joint venture company of the Airport Authority of India (AAI), and the states of Punjab and Haryana.

The petitioner, represented by senior counsel Chetan Mittal and Kunal Mulwani, cited the rules and the Excise Policy 2023-24 wherein under L-2 (Airport), the Punjab State Excise Department did not allowed any retail sale liquor vend at or inside the airport.

The contention of the petitioner was that earlier with the consent of the Punjab Excise Department and particularly in view of the fact that the representative of Punjab is a board member of the CHAIL, an e-auction was done inviting tender for duty paid liquor shops in Chandigarh as well as in the Amritsar airport for allotment for five years.

Accordingly, the Excise Department amended the Rules in 2019 to facilitate this facility.

The petitioner, Liquor World Venture Pvt. Ltd., was declared successful and a letter of award was issued in its favour and subsequently an agreement was also executed in 2020.

Initially the agreement was entered for five years and thereafter the same was extended for two years on account of the pandemic i.e. up to 2027.

It has been pleaded that previously also with the change of government, the Excise Policy for 2022-23 was amended without amending the rules and an attempt was made to oust and stop the ongoing contract of the petitioner by the Excise Department by issuing tenders themselves for the duty paid shops which falls within the jurisdiction of CHAIL.

It was further alleged that the excise policy for 2022-23 was tailor made to suit and restrict the allotment to some particular person.

At that point in time, the petitioner approached the High Court and it granted a stay in favour of the petitioner, which is still continuing and the writ petition is still pending.

Now once again with a view to oust the petitioner and without there being any benefit to Punjab in the Excise Policy for 2023-24, it was been unilaterally decided to do away with liquor vends at or inside the airport, the petitioner said.

The CHAIL, in its writ petition, had stated that they are earning profits to the tune of Rs 3.54 crores approximately through these duty paid shops and moreover the said shops were auctioned with the consent of the state authorities.

Accordingly, such an unilateral attempt will not only result in the revenue loss to the CHAIL but also the state will also not earn any revenue by prohibiting these duty paid shops.

A division bench of Justices Ritu Bahri and Manish Batra, after hearing the parties, directed the Excise Department to first approach the board of the CHAIL and has further ordered that till then, the petitioner be allowed to operate the duty paid shops till April 10.
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