The Uttarakhand government on Wednesday rolled out a controversial scheme which will allow only two licence holders to supply foreign liquor, though a cabinet panel is yet to clear the state’s new excise policy.
Excise officials said the department on Wednesday invited tenders for auctioning liquor shops under rules of the new excise policy which is “under consideration” of a three-member cabinet sub-committee.
Under the old policy, which is still in force, there are 33 authorised firms supplying foreign liquor to retails shops around the state, sources said.
The Congress government has been trying to bring in the new liquor regime – called FL2 -- since last year but had to postpone its implementation after opposition parties termed it a move to favour only selected liquor barons.
Sources said the government decided to go ahead with the plan in this financial year.
According to the tender notification, liquor shops will be brought under the hammer between April 15 and April 17 in three phases. Till then, the government will continue the present arrangements, the sources added.
Excise department officials said they the new excise policy will be clear only after the report of the cabinet subcommittee.
“The excise department has not yet received the new excise policy which is talked about in the tender notification. We are hoping the policy will come before the auction date. Otherwise, the government will have to cancel the auctioning of liquor shops,” said a senior department official requesting anonymity.
State excise commissioner Vinay Shankar Pandey said the process of auctioning has begun with publication of the notification on April 1.
“Shops will be auctioned on May 15, 16 and 17 according to the schedule in three phases. Till then the present arrangement will continue,” he added.
Asked whether the auctioning process could be challenged in court due to the absence of an excise policy, Pandey said, “In that case, the government will present its line of reasoning.”
BJP leader and party’s national executive member Satpal Maharaj questioned the government’s move to auction liquor licenses without approving the new policy.
"There is no point in auctioning shops unless the government has finalised its new excise policy. It must be clear if the state government wants to implement its much talked about FL2 plan for the sale of foreign liquor or there is something else in the offing," he added.