Karnataka High Court censured the state excise department for being lax and not stopping the illegal practice of liquor consumption within the shop premises in liquor shops and dhabas and restaurants that did not have the requisite license, a practice that is rampant in Bangalore and has been around for decades.
A high court division bench headed by chief justice JS Khehar and justice AS Bopanna took strong exception to this gross violation of the Excise Act, and took the excise commissioner to task for his department's failure to initiate action against illegal consumption of liquor in wine shops, and consumption and sale of liquor well over the maximum retail price in dhabas on the city outskirts, according to a report by DNA. The court directed the excise commissioner to be present in the court at the next date of hearing. They sought strict implementation of the Act and to ensure that such activities stop.
The high court has been hearing public interest litigation (PIL) which claims that the state government had failed to initiate any action against wine stores, hotels and dhabas serving liquor without licenses. The petitioners contended that according to the excise act, wine shops are not supposed to allow customers to drink in the shop; section 15A of the act says that restaurants and dhabas are not permitted to sell liquor at all unless they have a license.
Only two months after taking charge at the Karnataka High Court, Chief Justice J S Khehar displayed sarcasm, witticism and ire, tearing apart the present government and quoting the media describing it as the most corrupt state.
After seeking time to file a reply in this matter sometime back, the government had not responded and instead sought adjournments. “We will take action against your Commissioner (Excise),” said the bench.
The government advocate claimed that the petition was general in nature and there were no specific instances of violation of rules. The judges did not buy the argument and said,"Liquor is being served in restaurants and wine shops by violating the excise rules. The petitioner had submitted the photos, but you have no clue about the illegal shops. Please do something on this matter, instead of giving lecture here. How much time do you need to file a counter?” asking at one point, “Are we supposed to run the government?”