Mira-Bhayandar: Already under the scanner for giving more importance to revenue while turning a blind eye towards brazen violations and irregularities in the liquor trade, the excise department of Thane district has now stoked a controversy by giving a kids glove treatment to errant beer shop and bar owners who were caught selling Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks during the total lockdown period.
While excise officials remained in slumber, the Thane (rural) police led by SP Dr Shivaji Rathod had conducted raids at licensed establishments and caught the operators red-handed while selling booze to tipplers.
Although cases were filed under the sections of the Bombay Prohibition Act, IPC, Disaster Management Act, Excise Act and the stringent Maharashtra Covid-19 Rules, the errant booze sellers have now been allowed to reopen their establishments by paying paltry fines amounting Rs 20,000, each, thus defeating the sole purpose of lockdown and encouraging spread of the pandemic.
Notably, the district administration which heads the excise wing assessed the cases and termed the action as a simple breach of the rule while deciding the quantum of punishment. This despite the fact that such acts are punishable offences with jail terms.
“Yes, four establishments have been fined and allowed to operate,” confirmed an excise officer. “We had officially sought cancellation of licenses granted to such establishments in May this year,” said a police officer.
The errant vendors are now awaiting judicial orders to get their seized consignment released from the custody of the police.
Since the lockdown was put in place, the excise wing was supposed to seal all liquor vends and stockrooms of bars and permit rooms. However, the lockdown turned out to be a blessing in disguise for some licensed establishments who minted money by selling the booze at exorbitant prices. The collector himself heads the district disaster management authority.