JAMMU, Feb 6: In a landmark judgment, Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey today directed the State Government to review its Excise Policy by March 31, 2017.
While disposing of 11 petitions, Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey directed the State respondents to review Excise Policy, if they so feel, in view of the decision of the court in PIL Nos. 7/1999, 70/1999 and 136/1999 which was placed on record of LPA No. 145/99, titled Residents of Kunjwani Versus State of Jammu & Kashmir.
“This is imperative till the time it is considered appropriate to bring about a total prohibition. This would take care of the grievances of all the petitioners as well as private respondents. In that case, it would also be open to the respondents to undertake a denovo exercise to identify the locations for continuing or opening of such retail vends in accordance with any such policy as may be adopted”, High Court said.
“The official respondents shall undertake and complete the requisite exercise by the end of the current financial year—March 31, 2017, and issue fresh licenses to the selectees for the year 2017-2018 operative with effect from April 1, 2017”, High Court said, adding “in case the present vendees have not paid the annual fee and other dues for the current or any other previous year, they shall deposit the same with the Excise Department before closure of the present financial year. If any petitioner has deposited his fee or other dues before the Registry of this court pursuant to any order, the Registry shall release and pay the same along with interest in favour of the Excise Commissioner”.
Justice Magrey further observed, “there is no dispute that by notice dated June 25, 2006 issued by the Excise Commissioner the licenses were essentially operational only for one year— for the year 2005-06 and with respect to 95 locations only identified by the committee of officers constituted by the respondents in compliance of the directions of the Division Bench. Therefore, court think, it would be inconsequential to delve into the legality or otherwise of the impugned notices issued to the petitioners”.
“Any discussion on the submissions made at the Bar would have only academic value. Furthermore, the temporary licenses in question were issued in favour of the petitioners in terms of the Excise Policy promulgated in terms of Government Order No. 99-F of 2003 dated April 7, 2003 read with Order No. 156-F of 2003 dated July 22, 2003. More than 13 years have passed since then. The policy recognized the need for restrictive and regulative trade in the liquor till the time it was considered appropriate to bring about a total prohibition”, the court said, adding “since the matter has been pending in the court since then and there had been an interim order operating in the matter, obviously, the Government and the official respondents have not been able to revise the liquor policy during these years”.
“On the other hand, the petitioners, who were granted temporary licenses for four months which could be regularised to be operational, at best, for one year, have been continuing on such licenses for more than 11 years on court orders merely because of pendency of these petitions”, Justice Magrey said.
“I wish to commence this judgment recording my conviction about the universal truth that gross loss of unimaginable magnitude in intoxicants overweighs the little benefits in them and that there cannot be any good in something that covers minds, induces ruin in the biological beings and economy of a people and reduces most of the consumers to abject penury”, Justice Magrey said.