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Posted: Sunday, 14 October 2018 12:55

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Bombay High Court orders de-sealing Wine Shops, passes Strictures against Excise

Oct 14: The Bombay High Court has ordered the immediate de-sealing of 15 liquor shops in the suburbs of Thane and Palghar, and criticised State Excise Commissioner Ashwini Joshi for “over enthusiasm and over zealousness that might even cost her career, according to a Report by the Indian Express, with the excise department getting ready to file a leave petition against the HC order

The court was hearing petitions filed by 31 shop-owners, whose outlets were sealed on Joshi’s verbal orders on August 11, after the Flying Squad of the Excise Department discovered they were allegedly delivering liquor directly to people’s homes, according to the Report .

The petitioners told the court that since Ms. Joshi did not hear their grievances they approached the District Collector, Sachin Kurve, for relief; Kurve is the licensing authority in the suburbs.

“After hearing the petitioners, the Collector passed an interim order and then a final order allowing the appeal,” the petitioners told the court.

The lawyer appearing for the Excise Department said the petitioners could not presume that the Commissioner would not give them a fair and reasonable opportunity to place their case before her just because she issued some oral directions at some stage. The lawyer told the court that Joshi would allow the appeal straightaway.

A division bench of Justice S C Dharmadhikari and Justice B P Colabawalla said: “…she (Joshi) is not above the law. She may have all good intentions, but this is not the way to implement the law. She should be aware that justice should not only be done, but seen to be done.” It is a common practice in the excise department to pass on the line orders without any reasoning or giving an opportunity to the wine merchants, according to traders in Mumbai.

The bench said: ‘if the allegations against her are sustained, it would have an adverse impact on the career of a young official like the fourth respondent Joshi who has a long way to go. This over-enthusiasm and over-zealousness may cost her career itself. The law endows and entrusts such functionary with enormous powers. When they wield such powers having far reaching consequences, then such powers ought to be exercised cautiously and carefully. All powers are in the nature of trust.’

Over 50 wine shops, supplying wines and liquor through online call centres in Mumbai and adjoining areas, were sealed on 7 August 2018 with one person even arrested while supplying liquor when he had came to deliver wine to one of the calling customers but the practice of home delivery has been going on for a long time, as reported by delWine

The court rejected her contention,  saying ‘her order is passed in violation of the principles of fairness and justice. A senior official of the excise department has said that they are soon going to file a leave petition against the order of the High Court against the Commissioner Ashwini Joshi.

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