The state government has already allotted L-1A licences, and now after the HC order, it will have to make appropriate amendments and prescribe necessary guidelines to the manufacturers/distilleries for issuing consent to eligible applicants in a transparent manner.
The bench of justice Ajay Kumar Mittal and justice Raj Rahul Garg also directed that after due corrective measures, fresh applications would be invited for L-1A licenses, in case no fresh application was received, the allotments already made would continue.
The judgment came on a bunch of petitions, including one by Amarjit Singh Sidhu, seeking quashing of the newly created clause 2.14 of L-1A licence in the policy terming it arbitrary, illegal and against the provisions of the Punjab Excise Act-1914 and the Punjab Liquor Licence Rules-1956. It was also alleged that the new provisions were created to “monopolise” the liquor trade and allegedly extend the same to some groups --- Chadha group, Malhotra group, Doda group and AD group --- who were at present major stake- holders in the state liquor business.
Throughout the country, the liquor licence was being granted either by way of draw of lots or lottery. But in Punjab’s case, the L-1A licence is super wholesale licence, which would deal with the entire business of liquor in the state and further will sell liquor to L-1 licencees, who were earlier purchasing the liquor directly from any liquor manufacturing company, senior advocate, Mohan Jain had argued appearing on behalf of the petitioner.
The high court held that the impugned provisions incorporated nowhere prescribed the manner or method for the distillery or the competent authority to be adopted for issuing consent letter. It does not satisfy the requirement of being transparent and “very importantly gives level playing field” to all applicants. The procedure did not eliminate the vices of unfairness, favouritism or nepotism in the award of consent letter to an applicant, the HC bench said while declaring the provision as “invalid and inoperative”.
O The court held that the sub-clause (ii) of clause 2.14 in the excise policy for grant of L-1A licence is invalid and inoperative as it does not prescribe the manner and the method of licence issuance.
O The state government has already allotted L-1A licences to eight firms/individuals. Their licences have become inoperative.
O Now after the high court order, it will have to make appropriate amendments and prescribe necessary guidelines to the manufacturers/distilleries for issuing consent to eligible applicants in a transparent manner and invite fresh applications. If no application is received, the current allottees could continue for this year.