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M/S CEE CEE & CEE CEE’S v. K. DEVAMANI & ORS. - (Supreme Court) (18 Dec 2019)

A licensee can shift a liquor shop from one region to another, subject to prior approval of Competent Authority

MANU/SC/1771/2019

Excise

The Appellant is an F.L.¬ 1 License holder issued on 26th October, 2016 by the Deputy Commissioner, Excise, Mahe under the Puducherry Excise Act, 1970 (“Excise Act”). On 28th February, 2017, the Appellant filed an Application before the Deputy Commissioner (Excise), Mahe for shifting his licensed Liquor Shop from Mahe to Karaikal under Rules 163 and 209 of the Puducherry Excise Rules, 1970 (“Excise Rules”). A division bench of the Madras High Court vide Impugned Judgement quashed the Orders passed by Respondent No. 3. The permission granted by Respondent 6 No. 2 to 4 to shift the Licensed Shop of the Appellant from Mahe to Karaikal was set aside.

The issue which arises for consideration is whether the permission granted by Respondent Nos. 2 to 4 ¬ Excise 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 Appellant is the holder of an F.L. – 1 License issued by the Licensing Authority viz. the Deputy Commissioner, Excise, Mahe for carrying out vending of IMFL. An F.L.¬1 Licensee is permitted to sell liquor only to other Licensees, and not in retail. The Petitioner was carrying out his wholesale business. The Appellant filed an Application for shifting his liquor shop from Mahe to Karaikal under Rules 163 and 209 of the Excise Rules before the Deputy Commissioner, (Excise), Mahe. 19.3. Rule 209 in Chapter XIII of the Excise Rules provides for Shifting of Shops of all license holders, whether wholesale or retail.

Rule 209 of the Excise Rules permits shifting of the liquor shop from one “place” to another, subject to approval by the Licensing Authority on the terms and conditions contained therein. The proviso to Rule 209 of the Excise Rules states that the Licensing Authority may permit shifting of the licensed premises, subject to the fulfillment of the conditions of license, and payment of 1/4th of the license fee for such shifting.

There is no restriction or prohibition either in the Excise Act or Rules on the Licensing Authority from granting permission to shift the licensed shop from one region to another, subject to the conditions being complied with. A fortiori, a licensee can shift a liquor shop from one region to another within the Union Territory of Puducherry, subject to the prior approval of the Competent Authority.

The expression ‘from one place to another’ is not restrictive, and does not curtail the power of the Licensing Authority to grant permission for shifting the licensed shop from one region to another in the Union Territory of Puducherry so long as the conditions stipulated by the Excise Act and Excise Rules, as also the conditions for grant of a license are complied with. The shifting should not result in the increase in number of liquor shops beyond the maximum number of licenses which may be fixed for a particular area under Rule 122 of the Excise Rules.

Given the peculiar demography of the Union Territory of Puducherry, which comprises of four unconnected regions, it would be contrary to the object and purpose of the Excise Act, if a restrictive meaning was to be given to Rule 209 of the Excise Rules. The Act must be read as a whole to ascertain the intent of the legislature. If the intention of the legislature was to restrict the shifting of a liquor shop to a region, locality, municipality, or commune, Rule 209 of the Excise Act would have expressly contained such a prohibition, which is absent.

In the present case, the Licensing Authority i.e. the Deputy Commissioner (Excise) vide Letter dated 07.06.2018 has granted permission to shift the F.L.1 Licensed premises of the Appellant from Mahe to Karaikal, subject to compliance with the conditions laid down in Rule 209 of the Excise Rules. The Deputy Commissioner (Excise), Mahe permitted shifting of the premises subject to two additional conditions viz. (i) There shall be one and the same entrance and exit only; (ii) The boundary of the building should be properly protected.

All conditions under the Excise Act and Rules have complied with. Consequently, Respondent No. 3 ¬ the Deputy Commissioner (Excise), Karaikal vide letter granted permission to the Appellant to run the F.L.¬1 business from the location designated in Karaikal. The permission for shifting the licensed shop from Mahe to Karaikal granted by Respondent No. 3 is legal and valid. The Order passed by the Division Bench of the Madras High Court is set aside. Appeals allowed.

Tags : LIQUOR SHOP   SHIFTING OF   PERMISSION  

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