Delhi to await Centre guidelines before taking call on liquor stores, home deliveries
The high court had, on Thursday, asked the Delhi government to decide on the online sale and home delivery of liquor by May 15 (Friday). The government assured the court that it would decide the same by the date mandated.Updated: May 16, 2020 03:23 IST
The Delhi excise department will take a call on allowing private liquor shops to open, and provisions for its home delivery only after the central government issues fresh guidelines on restrictions and relaxations from May 18, senior government officials said on Friday. On the same day, the Delhi high court refused an interim stay on the 70% ‘Special Corona Fee’ charged on liquor in the city, but asked the state government for a response on a bunch of pleas challenging the imposition of the cess.
The Delhi government had notified the special cess on May 4, imposing the tax on the MRP of any brand of liquor sold in the city.
The high court had, on Thursday, asked the Delhi government to decide on the online sale and home delivery of liquor by May 15 (Friday). The government assured the court that it would decide the same by the date mandated.
Liquor stores in many parts of the country, including Delhi, witnessed unruly crowds and serpentine queues, soon after lockdown curbs were relaxed on May 4.
“The department has decided to wait for clear guidelines from the Centre on allowing private liquor shops to open and home delivery,” a senior government official said on Friday. “These guidelines are expected to be announced in a day or two,” the official said.
Alcohol sales account for 14.1% of Delhi’s total revenue projections for 2020-21.
Currently, the ministry of home affairs guidelines applicable for the lockdown period till May 17 limits e-commerce transactions to essentials (which does not include liquor) in red zones (all 11 revenue districts in the Capital).
The Supreme Court, however, had advised states last week to look into the possibility of online sale and delivery of liquor. So far, several states have started such an initiative, including Punjab, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal. The Delhi government introduced e-tokens for customers, to cut down on the long queues.
In Delhi, the excise department met thrice on the issue last week, one including finance minister Manish Sisodia. The government had also approached a private technology outsourcing company seeking help to develop a weblink and a mobile application but later put the plan on hold, a senior government official.
The government has drafted a standard operating procedure on home delivery of liquor but it awaits approval of senior officials.
One of the petitions in the high court, filed by advocate Lalit Valecha, said the ‘special corona fee’ imposed by the Delhi government upon the sale of liquor is in excess of what has been authorised by law and accordingly it is being collected arbitrarily.
Two other pleas called the cess a violation of the Constitution.
The court said it will now hear the matter on May 29.
Delhi has 864 liquor shops but only around 10% of them have been functional for the last 12 days, collectively recording sales of around ₹ 9.33 crore per day, excise department records showed.