Delhi government to revert to old retail liquor sale policy
Delhi government has decided to return to the old regime of retail liquor sale in the capital city. The order comes after Lieutenant Governor (LG) VK Saxena recommended a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into implementing the new excise policy. The Excise Policy 2021-22, extended twice after March 31 for two months each, will end on July 31.
- Delhi government permitted pubs, clubs, and restaurants to stay open till 3:00 pm and sell liquor everywhere, even on the terrace under the new excise policy.
- It stated that the food outlets would not operate outside the liquor store in order to prevent the unrestricted use of alcohol.
- Opposition parties, especially, BJP criticized the AAP administration for committing corruption with the new policy.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the excise portfolio, has directed to return to the old excise policy regime for six months till a new policy is finalized, as per NDTV. Notably, the government is still working on the Excise Policy 2022-23, which recommends, among other things, home delivery of liquor in Delhi. LG Saxena's consent is also awaited.
According to reports, which cited official sources, the finance department has immediately sought information from the excise department on old liquor vends, including their location, the number of staff members on duty, and whether they were located in rented or public spaces.
Reports said the new regulation effectively broke the government's monopoly on the retail selling of liquor. And prior to November 17, 2021, when the new excise policy went into effect, the majority of the liquor stores in Delhi were run by four government-controlled corporations. Out of Delhi's 864 liquor outlets, these firms operated 475 of them. There were 389 private shops with individual permits.
Following the implementation of the new policy, 849 liquor vending licenses were awarded to private enterprises through open bidding, as per officials. They said Delhi was divided into 32 zones, each with a maximum of 27 vends. Instead of individual licenses, bidding was done on a zone-by-zone basis, with each bidder authorized to bid on a maximum of two zones.
Earlier this month, the LG requested that the CBI conduct a probe into any rule violations and procedural flaws in the implementation of the new excise policy. He further asked that the Delhi chief secretary undertake a probe into the suspected involvement of excise department staff in the alleged discrepancies, as well as claims of cartelization in the retail liquor license bidding process.