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Posted: Tuesday, 08 October 2019 10:33

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44 Shops sealed by Excise still not allowed to Commence Business

Oct 08: The 44 department stores sealed on September 23-24 for gross violation of the License conditions stay sealed awaiting direction from the government and suffering loss of sales even as the government is suffering loss of excise revenues and there is chaos and panic in the industry, writes Subhash Arora who implores the Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia to also ascertain that if the shops were violating the conditions for 5 years or more, why the officials were not vigilant enough all these years

The Delhi Excise Department had made a surprise inspection on Monday, 23 September of department stores in Karol Bagh, Janakpuri, Azadpur, Jahangirpuri, Dwarka, Kailash Colony and Govindpuri Extension and sealed two shops, Subsequently 44 shops were sealed out of 125 that have the L-10 and L-12 licenses authorising them to sell wine and beer from their outlets on certain conditions.

According to an earlier Report by TOI when the Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia visited a department store at Arya Samaj Road in Karol Bagh in West Delhi on Monday, with the Excise Department officials at 7.30 p.m, he noticed that almost 90 per cent of the sales were beer and wine whereas only 15 per cent beer and wine can be sold at a department store as per the rules. The Deputy Chief Minister directed the officials to seal the shop immediately.

The raids continued on the direction of DCM Sisodia through many other areas and eventually 44 shops were sealed. All of them reportedly remain sealed- a few have been allowed to do regular business without the sale of wine and beer. "They were running wine and beer shops in the name of department stores. Delhi has 125 department stores with licence to keep 15 per cent of wine/beer. The highest limit of refrigeration allowed in such stores is of 300 litres," Sisodia said.

"They were running wine and beer shops in the name of department stores. Delhi has 125 department stores with licence to keep 15 per cent of wine/beer. The highest limit of refrigeration allowed in such stores is of 300 litres," Sisodia said, adding that the action was taken after complaints were received that liquor shops were being run in the name of department stores. It could be considered a back-door entry to sell wine and beer when new licenses were not being issued.

The policy to allow sale of wine and beer was a welcome and progressive step that had been allowed earlier in a few other States. It defined the minimum period of one year of the existence of the supermarket which was also defined in the Notification. A maximum of 15% area could be used to stock and display these products and a minimum of 500 sq ft was the requirement for the department store/supermarket to request for a license.

There was apparently no cap on the amount of sale of wine/beer vs. Rest of products at 15% at the time, according to the best of our knowledge. Interestingly, Nature’ s Basket which shifted from a smaller shop already with the license to sell wine to a bigger store within Defence Colony could never manage to get the new license despite their corporate structure and clean way of doing business. Eventually, they shut shop in Defence Colony.

Where there is smoke, there is fire is the adage. It seems to apply in all businesses. A bit of leverage from the government and the businesses start to take advantage-similar to the Camel and the Arab in the tent story.  The action of sealing the 44 shops seems to be justified when you read the Statement of Mr. Sisodia. But he needs to clarify if the clause of 15% maximum sales of wine and beer exists and if it does, the department needs to look at it carefully and rescind it. Wine can be of higher value per customer- a store normally stocks wines costing between Rs. 500- Rs. 8,000 a bottle!

The other thing is whether regular checks were being made and such raids/surveys were carried out. Nipping the evil in the bud is the need of the hour rather than wait for the Camel to throw out the Arab out of the tent!!

Where there have been gross violations, it may be justified to suspend their licenses. But in case of genuine cases with minor violations, they could be fined as per the law and/or with a stern warning. They also need to quash the grapevine with rumours that the sudden harsh action before the elections is a way to extract money from businesses. Those selling 90% of their sales as wine and beer with an equivalent display of bottles, have made the gross violations and their licenses could be considered to be cancelled or suspended with or without  a heavy punitive fine and it would be justified. But the genuine businesses ought not to be harmed any more.

Subhash Arora


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