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Bombay High Court breather for liquor shop falling within 500m of highway


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Mumbai: In a breather to a Pune-based liquor shop owner, the Bombay High Court quashed a “demand notice” issued by the state excise department demanding Rs 28 lakh. The department had demanded the money as a “transfer fees” since the shop owner was compelled to shift his shop to another place as it was situated within the 500 metres of a national highway.

The shop owner — Vikram Chug had petitioned the division bench of Justices Bhushan Gavai and Makarand Karnik, challenging the demand notice served upon him by the superintendent of state excise department, Pune. The superintendent had granted seven days time to Chug to deposit Rs 28 lakh with the department. The demand was sought to be made towards the transfer fees as Chug was directed to shift his shop to a new premise from the existing one since it was situated within the 500 metres of a highway. Chug was first asked to shift the shop owing to the directives of the Supreme Court which had in December 2016 passed a detailed judgment regarding “drink and drive” accidents.

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The apex court had directed states not to renew licences of liquor shops which are situated within 500 metres of a state or national highway.  Pursuant to this order, Chug had initially shifted his shop to some other place. Then, the government had refused to levy any charges upon him as he was made to shift his shop after the directions of the apex court.

However, after the “clarification” of the SC in February 2017, he was asked to operate from the original shop, which was near a highway. The apex court in its clarificatory orders had exempted shops falling under the jurisdiction of municipal corporations or councils from being removed or shifted. Now, having shifted back to his original shop, Chug was surprised to receive the demand notice by the excise department.

Taking note of this demand, the bench said, “Pursuant to the clarification issued by the apex court, if Chug’s licence as regards to his original premises, stand protected and thus the question of demanding the transfer fees does not arise. In our opinion, the demand notice is completely arbitrary and irrational and therefore deserves to be quashed.”