Tussle on, but Delhi excise policy may be extended
To prevent liquor shops in the national capital from downing shutters as their permits expire on August 1, Delhi lieutenant governor Vinai Kumar Saxena is likely to extend for the third time the old excise policy of 2021-22, an official said
To prevent liquor shops in the national capital from downing shutters as their permits expire on August 1, Delhi lieutenant governor Vinai Kumar Saxena is likely to extend for the third time the old excise policy of 2021-22, an official said.
The policy, valid till March 30, was earlier extended up to May 31 and then till July 31. The new excise policy, proposed by the Delhi government led by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, is yet to be approved.
“There is little time left for the 2022-23 policy to be brought in, so the existing policy is likely to be extended for the third time now,” the official said, seeking anonymity. “This is because some issues with the 2022-23 excise policy, which has been in the works since May this year, have remained unresolved.”
There are 468 stores selling alcoholic beverages in Delhi against a sanctioned strength of 849.
Several liquor shops in the city have stopped replenishing their inventories, leading to a scarcity of premium brands such as Black Label, Johnnie Walker, Red Label, Glenlivet and Glenfiddich, among others.
“We have stopped placing orders now and are just clearing our stocks because we do not have any clarity on the extension (of permits),” said the store manager of a liquor shop near Savitri Cinema in Greater Kailash Part II.
“You will not find premium whiskey or single malts almost anywhere,” he said, requesting anonymity. “People are going to Gurugram and purchasing liquor.”
The Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi had introduced the new liquor regime last year, saying it would clean up malpractices and improve user experience. Saxena, however, last week asked the Union home ministry for an inquiry into the 2021-22 excise policy by the Central Bureau of Investigation, starting a new confrontation with the elected government.
The Delhi government, while extending liquor permits of retail vends, hotels, restaurants and other licensees, did not increase the tendered license fee, which could have been to extend financial benefits to the licensees, Saxena alleged. The extensions were given without approval of the cabinet or the lieutenant governor, he said.
The Delhi government declined to comment on the matter.
The lieutenant governor has contended that several procedures were tweaked to benefit private liquor barons, and an investigation must be carried out to find evidence of kickbacks, according to an official in Saxena’s office.
The trail of those responsible for this goes to the “highest echelons of the government leading up to deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia”, he said on condition of anonymity.
Chief minister Kejriwal has denied the allegations, saying the move was a ploy to implicate his deputy in a false case and to stall his party’s growing popularity.
In the proposed 2022-23 excise policy, the Delhi government planned to lift restrictions from discounts, making liquor cheaper. Though the existing excise policy also permits discounts on liquor, the Delhi government on February 28 discontinued discounts being offered by liquor stores due to overcrowding and violations of Covid-19 guidelines. On April 2, the government permitted liquor stores to offer up to a maximum of 25% discount on the maximum retail price.
The new policy also proposes allowing home delivery; opening of special bars that will serve only wine and beer; discontinuation of the need to open at least two liquor stores in each ward; renewal of zonal retail licenses at same annual fee as the previous year; re-tendering zones at a base reserve fee of ₹280 crore as against ₹225 crore in 2021-22 in case an existing vendor pulls out; and rationalisation of the brand registration fee for spirits other than whisky at just ₹5,000 instead of ₹1 lakh, among others.