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Drinking Is Not a Fundamental Right: AAP Govt To Delhi HC

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The Delhi High Court will hear on Friday multiple pleas challenging the AAP Government’s decision to levy a special Corona Fee to the extent of 70 percent of the maximum retail price on all categories of liquor.

In a response to petitions, the Delhi government on Thursday said that the state has the power to regulate the sale, purchase, and consumption of liquor and urged the court to dismiss the plea. The Delhi government stated that the MRP has not been raised and added that the petition was devoid of merits. It also cited examples of states like Assam, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal where similar charges have been imposed. 

Trade or consumption of liquor is not a fundamental right and the state has the authority to regulate its sale, the AAP government has told the Delhi High Court maintaining its levying 70% ‘special corona fees’ on MRP of all alcohol brands is a price for grant of such privilege to the public.

The Delhi government further said, “To begin with, the very object of a State Excise Levy is liquor, which unlike objects under other fiscal statutes, is dangerous and injurious to health and is therefore an article which is res extro commercium.” 

The Delhi Excise Act, 2009 empowers the state to regulate or supervise the sale, purchase, and consumption of liquor in the National Capital Territory of Delhi particularly in the present COVID situation, the government said, adding “in the exercise of the power vested under Section 4, Section 11 (1) and Section 77 read with Section 81(1) and/or Section 81(2)(f)/lg), that Rule 154 (4) of the Rules has been amended and the impugned levy has been imposed; which is nothing but a combination of price towards grant of privilege and the cost of regulation/supervision.” 

The High Court, which today heard various petitions moved in this regard, had on May 15 issued a notice to the Delhi government asking it to file a response. 

According to the petition, the Delhi government’s action is a case of excessive delegation as the Delhi Excise Act does not empower the state to levy any fee or charges except as provided under Section 26 of the Act. It was further submitted that the imposition of such a fee is in violation of Article 265 of the Constitution of India as it was without any authority of law. 

The petition prayed for directions to the Delhi government to quash and set aside the notification that amended the Excise rules 2010 and Special Corona fees were levied upon liquor. It also prayed for directions to the government that the money so collected be refunded.

Another petition had also sought setting aside of notification, alleging that the increase in the price was arbitrary, bad in law and uncalled for. 

-India Legal Bureau

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