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No prohibition in the Excise Act or Rules for shifting the Licensed premises from one place to anoth

M s CEE CEE & CEE CEE’s v. K.Devamani & Ors, CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION, CIVIL APPEAL NOS.9494­9495 OF 2019, (Arising out of SLP (Civil) No. 10744 – 10745 of 2019) – December 18, 2019.

The brief facts of the case are the appellant is a F.L.-1 License holder under Puducherry Excise Act, 1970 under which the appellant is permitted to sell Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) to other license holders. On 28.02.2017, the appellant filed an application before Deputy Commissioner for shifting his Licensed Liquor Shop from Mahe to Karaikal under Rule 163 and 209 of the Puducherry Excise Rules, 1970. The Deputy Commissioner forwarded the application to Respondent3 (Deputy Commissioner) for assessing the suitability of the site at Karaikal. Respondent1 (resident of Karaikal) opposed the shifting of the liquor shop to Karaikal. However the Deputy Commissioner rejected the objections and granted permission to the appellant to shift the liquor shop. Respondent1 in turn approached the Madras HC to quash the above order. The HC passed an interim stay of the order. A divisional bench of the Madras HC quashed the order passed by the Deputy Commissioner. Aggrieved by the order the appellant-license holder filed a SLP petition before this court.

The issue that is to be decided is whether the permission granted to the exercise authorities to transfer the licensed shop from one region to another in the Union Territory of Puducherry was permissible under the Excise Act and Rules.

The counsel for the State submitted that excise Authorities have assessed the pros and cons of the shifting and sought the view of the police authorities prior to granting permission. The report of the Excise Officer was obtained which viewed that the site of the appellant is not located on the National or State Highway.  There is no religious or educational institutions located within 100 meters of that site. Also the SP confirmed that there would be no law and order problem if the shop is shifted.

The counsel for the appellant informed that all the conditions under Excise Act and Rules have been complied with.

The court considered various provisions of the Excise Rules. Under Rule 209 in Chapter XIII of the Excise Rules permits shifting of the liquor shop from one place to another subject to the approval of the Licensing Authority  who should shift it after fulfillment of the conditions of the license and payment. There is no restriction on the Licensing Authority from granting permission to shift the licensed shop from one region to another. The court viewed that the expression ‘from one place to another’ is not restrictive. The shifting should not increase the number of liquor shops beyond the maximum number of licenses.

If a restrictive meaning is given to Rule 209 of the Excise Rules, the object and purpose of the Excise Act would be contradicted. If the intention of the legislature was to restrict the shifting, that would be expressly contained in the prohibition. The Excise Act and the Excise Rules use the expression ‘local area’ in contradiction of ‘place’ whenever the intention is to confine the area of the location of the liquor shop. Also a counter Affidavit was filed by the State containing similar proposal.

The court concluded that there is no prohibition in the Excise Act or Rules for shifting the F.L.1 Licensed premises from one place to another. The permission granted by Deputy Commissioner for shifting the license shop is legal and valid. The court allowed the Civil Appeals and set aside the Order passed by the divisional bench of the Madras HC.

– Priyadharshini R

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