CUTTACK: The Orissa High Court on Wednesday dismissed a batch of petitions challenging the policy decision of the State government to switch over to lottery for granting exclusive privilege of retail sale of liquor through IMFL off shops by charging a fixed license fee.
The division bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice BP Routray ruled that auction is not the only method for determining the consideration for parting with the exclusive privilege for sale of liquor. Auction could be one of the methods.
“There cannot be, in the very nature of things, one right fix in matters of this kind. In other words, it is not possible to accept the contention of the petitioners that auction is the only and the best method for parting with the exclusive privilege for sale of liquor,” the bench ruled.
The court is unable to agree with the contention of the petitioners that the policy of the State to switch over to lottery as a mode of determination of fees for parting with the exclusive privilege of trade in IMFL through off shops is irrational and arbitrary, the bench observed in a 53-page long judgment, a copy of which is with The New Indian Express.
The states of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Telangana are some of those who have switched over to the lottery system for settlement of IMFL shops. Auction as a mode had been discontinued since 2005. The State government had been renewing the license - earlier settled through lottery annually - by fixing the percentage of increase.
The State Excise department had notified the criteria and guidelines for organising the lottery for grant of exclusive privilege in the trade of liquor through IMFL off shops on February 26, 2021. Accordingly, on March 14, 2021 the collectors had issued a sale notice inviting the applications for settlement of IMFL off shops in different localities. This was challenged by the petitioners.
While declining to invalidate the policy shift to a lottery mode, the bench said, empirical data presented by the State government showed that the system of auction that had been earlier adopted had given rise to problems. The revenue collection figure had shown a steady increase since 2005-06. “This appears to support the contention of the government that the fixed licence fee is a better suited method”, the bench also observed.