Odisha HC stays e-auction of liquor shops

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Cuttack/Bhubaneswar, Mar 20:

The Odisha High Court today slapped an interim stay on the notification issued by the Odisha government for e-auction of liquor shops in the state.

High-CourtThe Court, in its order, said either the state government should follow the directives earlier issued by the court or can seek special approval of the Supreme Court and issue fresh notification.

Liquor traders in the state had been opposing the state government’s move for e-auctioning of liquor shops ever since it took the decision to e-auction both country liquor and Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) outlets in the state and had moved the High Court.

In the meanwhile, the state government’s Excise department had on February 6 issued a gazette notification for e-auction of liquor shops in Cuttack and Balasore districts on March 23 as a pilot project and later e-auction of liquor outlets in the rest 28 districts in the state would have been held from April 4 to 8.

Challenging the government notification, several petitions were filed in the High court. Adjudicating over the petitions filed by Himanshu Mohan Padhi and Monalisa Rath, a division bench, comprising Justices Indrajit Mahanty and Biswanath Mohapatra, granted an interim stay on the excise department notification.

“The Odisha government had completely ignored or had not read the earlier judgment of the Odisha High Court.  In the earlier judgment the court had issued several directions, the state government instead of carrying out the directions of the court or rather in contempt of the High Court had gone ahead for e-auction. The High Court today took a serious view of the matter and said that the government cannot go ahead with the e-auction”, said Suresh Chandra Tripathy, petitioner’s advocate speaking to reporters at Cuttack.

The Odisha government has taken note of the High Court order and after making necessary amendments in the rules will move the High Court, said sources in the state government’s Excise department.

“Keeping in view the honourable High Court’s directives after making required amendments in the rules we will surely approach the High Court and seek clearance. It’s nothing only thing is that this may get a little delayed by a few days in between”, said Damodar Rout, Minister Excise in his comments on the High Court order while speaking to reporters at Bhubaneswar.

It may be mentioned that in order to get rid of the present lottery system in allotting liquor shops, the state government has been trying to introduce e-auction of these allotments since 2013 in order to fetch more revenue. Accordingly, a notification to this effect was made in March 2013.

But the High Court had intervened and quashed the government notification in July 2013 suggesting that proper infrastructure should have been in place before changing the modalities of allotment of some 1500 liquor shops (Country Spirit and IMFL) in the state.

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