Excise Policy needs a thorough review

As we very often voice our concern that in most of the cases where the executive was empowered enough to take decisions in a transparent, impeccable and innovative manner but only when there is court intervention and flaws are listed out and even remedial measures suggested, till that moment, nothing is done and instead obsolete, ambiguous, questionable and non- transparent means are adopted and policies favouring the blue eyed ones are framed. The question is as to why an annual review of the Excise Policy is not made very strictly? Why it is not seen whether the same party enjoyed the patronage from the concerned authorities in getting more than one licence to open liquor vends? Why, on comparative analysis, reckoning of revenues earned from the sale of liquor is not made as to how the same could be increased and where were the loopholes or the weak points in revenue collection? When we have an Excise Act in force coupled with directions from the Supreme Court on the subject , why a revised Excise Policy is not framed? Why should licences be granted for 5 years and not on the basis of annual reviews and annual renewals and why should there not be open and transparent bidding for the same ?How many ex-Law Makers are involved in the lucrative liquor trade in J&K and whether allotment to them has been made in a transparent manner? In response to several appeals and a writ petition filed in the High Court, the landmark judgment by a Division Bench of High Court needs to be looked into not only for strict compliance but for purposes of introspection by the concerned responsible authorities as to why so many flaws and shortcomings in the entire gamut of managing trade in liquor and earning of Excise Duty there- from, have been pointed out by the Bench. Liquor trade has “always remained lucrative” but skeletons from the cupboard in Jammu  and Kashmir needed to be “cleared” is what the Bench has observed. The main question is that of allotments where, we are afraid, many considerations allegedly had been reigning supreme like favouritism, like who were near and had access to the corridors of power, corruption, political recommendations and the like. Why should there be no advertisements for allotment enumerating all terms and conditions strictly according to the Jammu and Kashmir Excise Act and entire exercise conducted in a professional, non -partisan and impartial way but in most of the cases, only when the then State Finance Minister would recommend allotment and the allottee would ”continue ” for all times to come – has been severely commented upon by the Bench. The Bench has , therefore, directed that a new Excise Policy be framed which would not go astray from what is prescribed in the Excise Act. The view that absolute ban on manufacturing and sale of liquor in Jammu and Kashmir is not feasible even though there was no fundamental right to do trade or business in liquor,carries weight. Since the UT is mainly dependent on tourism and tourism related business and that the UT, primarily shy of widening its revenue earning base due to host of reasons peculiar to this part of the country and hence large chunks of revenues were coming through the source of Excise Duty, a rough estimate of Rs.125 croremonthly, what was needed was framing of new Excise Policy as directed by the Division Bench. Further, what is needed is to streamline the allotment procedure in a transparent manner and tone up the monitoring and checks and balances mechanism.