Thursday, February 2, 2023

Delhi High Court dismisses petition challenging order passed by the Financial Commissioner

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The Delhi High Court has dismissed the Petition filed challenging the order passed by the Financial Commissioner which restores the excise license which was granted to the respondent setting aside the order in terms of which the same had been cancelled.

The   petition is  preferred by the Department of Excise and challenges the order of 28 June 2019 passed by the Financial Commissioner. The order impugned restores the excise license which was granted to the respondent setting aside the order of 18 January 2018 which has cancelled the same.

Counsel appearing for the petitioner Department submits that Section 16 of the Delhi Excise Act, 2009  confers ample power on the competent authority to cancel a license granted for any reason whatsoever.

A Single Bench of Justice Yashwant Varma found  itself unable to countenance that submission since undisputedly the Department acting as a public authority is obliged to act fairly and surely not whimsically.

 The expression “for any reason whatsoever” cannot be recognised as empowering the respondent to cancel a license on grounds which are not contemplated under the Act. The provisions of Section 16 cannot be viewed as granting the Department of Excise a carte blanche to cancel a license validly granted in terms of the provisions of the Act and Rules framed thereunder on a ground which may not be legally sustainable or not contemplated under the Act , observed the Bench.

The Court notes that the Financial Commissioner has noted that the solitary ground on which the license was sought to be cancelled was the issue of “public sentiment” and an “apprehension of disturbance of law and order”.

It is further noted by the Bench that the grant of license under the Act and Rules framed thereunder is not subject to “public sentiment”.

“The apprehension of a law and order situation is clearly a different issue altogether and which must necessarily be looked into by the concerned police authorities. Unless the license of the liquor vend is shown to fall foul of any statutory provision or otherwise established to be in violation of any rule or regulation, the same cannot possibly merit cancellation merely because “public sentiment” may be opposed to its location. Public opinion or sentiment is not a factor relevant or germane under the Act for locating a liquor vend. While the Court is aware that principles of res extra commercium apply to trade in liquor, that would not justify the cancellation of a license validly granted and which is not established to be in violation of the law. Accordingly and for the aforesaid reasons, the challenge to the impugned order fails”, the order reads.

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