New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has said that the license of a liquor vend cannot be cancelled on account of “public sentiment” being opposed to its location.
Justice Yashwant Varma said that the grant of license under the excise law is not subject to “public sentiment” and unless the license is shown to be contrary to the legal provisions, the same cannot be cancelled.
“Unless the license of the liquor vend is shown to fall foul of any statutory provision or otherwise established to be in violation of any rule or regulation, the same cannot possibly merit cancellation merely because “public sentiment” may be opposed to its location. Public opinion or sentiment is not a factor relevant or germane under the Act for locating a liquor vend,” said the court in its order dated May 31.
The court was dealing with the excise department’s challenge to the restoration of M/S 2 Bandits Restaurant’s excise license by the Financial Commissioner.
The petitioner department challenged the order on the ground that the Delhi Excise Act conferred ample power on the competent authority to cancel a license granted “for any reason whatsoever”.
Justice Varma dismissed the petition and said that the expression “for any reason whatsoever” cannot be recognised as empowering the authorities to cancel a license on grounds that are not contemplated under the law and the department, acting as a public authority, is obliged to act fairly and not whimsically.
The court noted that the Financial Commissioner had considered that the “solitary ground” for seeking cancellation of the license was the issue of “public sentiment” and an “apprehension of disturbance of law and order”.
The court observed that the apprehension of a law and order situation was a different issue which “must necessarily be looked into by the concerned police authorities” and unless the license of the liquor vend is shown to fall foul of any statutory provision or otherwise established to be in violation of any rule or regulation, the same cannot be cancelled merely because of public sentiment.
“The provisions of Section 16 (of Delhi Excise Act) cannot be viewed as granting the Department of Excise a carte blanche to cancel a license validly granted in terms of the provisions of the Act and Rules framed thereunder on a ground which may not be legally sustainable or not contemplated under the Act,” the court said.