No more online order or discounts on liquor, says Maharashtra excise department
Consumers will no longer be able to order liquor via online platforms or get discounts as the Maharashtra excise department is all set to crackdown on such mediums.
The excise department in its circular issued this week said that home delivery of liquor allowed during the Covid-19 pandemic was temporary in nature, and added that any listing, advertisement or offer was against excise rules and could invite prosecution as per law.
This is in contravention of the May 22 circular issued by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) wherein the civic body allowed the use of online platforms for selling liquor to avoid crowding at wine shops.
The excise department’s decision has irked many consumers who have questioned as to why liquor was being excluded from online platforms when all other goods are available.
Kevin Rodrigues, 39, who works in a leading BPO, said, “When liquor is legal, what harm is there to allow it to be sold online? In fact, tipplers will get a good choice of brands from the comfort of their homes,” said Rodrigues.
Savio D’sa, bar and restaurant consultant, is of a similar view and said it is about time liquor business is eased. “Online deliveries will prevent overcrowding at the counters, especially when Covid-19 cases are increasing by the day, and will encourage people to order more. Currently, the state coffers are bleeding and such a move (allowing online delivery of liquor) will only add more revenue to the exchequer,” said D’sa.
According to a senior official of excise department, home delivery of liquor was not allowed but an exception has been made due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Wine shops can only give their names and addresses. They cannot even list liquor brands. We have observed that some stores are displaying bottles and in some there are models promoting the brand. Some are also promoting incentive schemes on bulk purchases. This is not allowed,” said the official requesting anonymity.
Excise commissioner Kantilal Umap has defended its decision saying he is following the rules. “We will crackdown on all who are advertising, whether it’s online or offline, as it’s not allowed,” said Umap.
Excise Department has warned that anyone indulging in such advertisements will face penalty of up to six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of ₹5,000 under sections 23 and 24 of the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949.
Wine shop merchants agree that advertisements may have taken place. “It’s true that some merchants may have advertised, but it was due to lack of clarity of rules. However, now things are clearer,” said Arvind Miskin, president of Association of Progressive Retail Liquor Vendors.
Liquor has been one of the major sources of revenue for the state government. The state was able to garner ₹15,434 crore as excise duty from sale of liquor during the previous financial year (April 2019-March 2020). This was one of the reasons that the cash-strapped government allowed opening of liquor shops from May 4.
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