April 06: An amendment to the liquor laws in the State of Uttar Pradesh makes it a non-bailable offence to carry more than one sealed bottle of liquor from neighbouring states and carries a maximum punishment of five years in jail along with a fine of Rs 5,000 or ten times the revenue the state would have earned from the bottles carried, whichever is higher.
Uttar Pradesh government has uncorked a series of changes on sale of liquor
including wine in the state. But, the tweak that will concern people
in the NCR the most is an amendment the government made to the liquor
law late last year to stop out the practice of buying alcohol at cheaper
rates from neighbouring Delhi.
“A person is permitted to bring only a single unit of alcohol at a time into UP from other states and that too only for consumption and not sale. If more than one bottle being imported is found with the seal intact, it will be presumed it is for sale and the charges of liquor smuggling can be invoked,” Ghaziabad district excise officer Gyanendra Tripathy said. The rules, however, do not apply if the bottles are open- a wine bottle usually would be presumed not be uncorked-unless it is with a screw-cap and is intended to be consumed immediately on arrival; an open bottle cannot be kept after it is opened, without the quality deterioration.
Smuggling of liquor into UP is rampant because of much higher rates of taxes and due to the monopolistic nature of the sales structure. Several dealers across the neighbouring States are also suspected of indulging in the lucrative smuggling. The new law if carried out in sincerity (that is if the excise officials do not connive with the smugglers) would cut it down sizeably.
The state government had in September last year made an amendment to the UP Excise Act, 1910, to bring down the import of liquor from other states. It is common practice for people in Noida and Ghaziabad to bring along liquor from neighbouring Delhi as alcohol is cheaper in the capital. Many fliers returning from the Indira Gandhi International Airport also buy their liquor in Delhi before coming to their homes in UP.
Curiously, the announcement is apparently quiet on the legality of buying wine/liquor at the Duty Free Shop on arrival. The Law allows buying and carrying two bottles of 1 liter each-of any alcohol on Arrival.
The UP government also announced yesterday reduced hours of opening of liquor shops. They would now open at noon and close at 10 pm. The earlier business hours for liquor outlets were from 9 am to 11pm. The slashing of the business hours got the thumbs up from various residents’ associations though some said the reduced hours could lead to law and order problems and brawls outside the liquor shops.
DelWine’s Take :The smuggling has been due to the vast difference in prices of these products across the States, all over India- UP is not the lone example. There are many cases of smuggling from Haryana to Delhi and UP as well. According to a Report by PTI published today in Business Standard, an engineer with an MBA degree from a well-do-do family was caught smuggling 23 cases of liquor in his car to Delhi. He was reportedly being paid Rs. 500 a case by a gang of smugglers.
This smuggling can be avoided if there were GST applicable on liquor and wine-even at rates higher than the existing maximum of 28%. But the States are greedy and rather than implementing prohibition according as mandated by the Constitution, they use taxes as the cash cow and do not want to release the tight rein. They agreed to discuss the GST regime only if they would exclude alcohol and petrol-both of which need to be a part of the GST network, if such smuggling has to be really abolished.
In any case, they should allow 2 bottles-especially if they have been bought duty free at the IGI airport- that is allowed by the Central Government. The UP government should also look inwards on their absurd excise policy. We totally support reduction of shop hours and any other strict action they might take on rowdies who have a free hand in creating nuisance for the local residents-editor
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