The Orissa High Court on Wednesday upheld the policy decision of the Government dated March 23 this year to allot excise privileges through e-auction.
A division bench of Justice I Mohanty and Justice B N Mohapatra, however, rejected the procedure laid down by the Government for e-auctioning of liquor shops in the State and directed that fresh decision be taken quickly after reconsidering different aspects in the matter.
The order dated April 5 laying down the procedure for implementing e-auction was held unreasonable and unsustainable in law. “It would, therefore, be desirable if the Government addresses itself on different aspects of the procedure to take a fresh decision as early as practicable. Till then, the existing arrangements would be in place,” the bench ruled, while disposing of more than 100 writ petitions challenging e-auctioning of liquor shops.
The court directed the Government to allow participants in the e-auction to take help of internet at the NIC centres at each district headquarters. It asked for reconsideration of the aspect of seeking solvency certificate not less than 12 times of the reserve price for qualifying in the e-auction despite the fact that the licensees had already furnished solvency certificates to the tune of three times the monthly consideration fee.
It also held that Clause (VIII) of the April 5 notification violated the mandates of Article 14 of Constitution as it did not provide opportunity of hearing before disqualifying a registered bidder from the e-auction. The Government has been directed to make provision for inviting and considering objections of the local people where the shops would be located.
The court has also instructed reconsideration of the Clause that allows bidders from outside the State to take part in the auction by submitting solvency certificate in respect of immovable property situated outside Odisha and frame rules and regulations in this regard.
The petitioners had challenged the notification of e-auction alleging violation of fundamental rights. They had submitted that the new system would pose problems as they were not familiar with e-auction and use of internet.
Further, no other State in the country had adopted e-auction for allocation of liquor shops.