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Drinking Is Not a “Fundamental Right”: Delhi Government Defends Special Corona Fee Amid COVID-19

Team SoOLEGAL 29 May 2020 5:05pm

Drinking Is Not a “Fundamental Right”: Delhi Government Defends Special Corona Fee Amid COVID-19

New Delhi: Trade or consumption of liquor is not a fundamental right and the state has the power to regulate the sale, purchase, and consumption of liquor, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government told the Delhi High Court that it is levying 70 per cent “special corona fees” on MRP of all alcohol brands is a price for grant of such privilege to the public.

In a response to petitions filed for 70 per cent “special corona fees” on MRP of all alcohol brands, the Delhi government said there was an element of privilege with sale/dealing in liquor and the state is free to regulate it under the excise law.

"Accordingly the state is also free to impose and recover a price for grant of such privilege. Such imposition need not be either a tax or a fee yet less excise duty, or for that matter form part of Excise revenue."

"The present impugned levy (special corona fee) is nothing but a combination of price of such privilege and cost of such regulation and supervision," the Delhi government's Department of Excise said in an affidavit filed in response to the petitions.

"A citizen, therefore, has no fundamental right to do trade or business in liquor or for that matter also to consume liquor. On the other hand, the State has the authority and jurisdiction to regulate (including prohibit totally or partially) such trade and commerce as well as to regulate the sale, purchase and consumption of liquor," the Delhi government said.

The Government of Delhi stated that the MRP was not raised and added that the petition was without merits. Examples of states such as Assam, Meghalaya, Karnataka , Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal where similar charges were imposed were also cited.

The Delhi Excise Act, 2009 empowers the state to regulate or supervise the The Delhi Excise Act, 2009 and authorizes the State to regulate or supervise the sale, purchase and consumption of liquor in National Capital Territory of Delhi, particularly in the current COVID situation , the Government said “in the exercise of the power vested under Section 4, Section 11 (1) and Section 77 read with Section 81(1) and/or Section 81(2)(f)/lg), that Rule 154 (4) of the Rules has been amended and the impugned levy has been imposed; which is nothing but a combination of price towards grant of privilege and the cost of regulation/supervision.” 

According to the petition, the action of the Delhi government is a case of excessive delegation since the Delhi Excise Act does not authorize the state to levy any fees or charges except as provided by Section 26 of the Act. It was further submitted that the emergence of such a fee is in breach of Article 265 of the Indian Constitution as it was without any authority of law.

The petition prayed for directions to quash and set aside the notification that amended The  Excise Rules 2010 and charges for the Special Corona that were imposed on liquor by the Delhi government. Also it prayed that the money so raised should be refunded.

Another petition had also sought to set aside the notification, alleging that the price increase was arbitrary, unlawful.



Tagged: Fundamental Right   Delhi Government   Special Corona Fee   COVID-19   Delhi High Court   Indian Constitution  
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