The Delhi government has defended its decision to levy ‘special corona fee’ of 70% on all alcohol brands, before the Delhi High Court, saying that trade or consumption of liquor is not a fundamental right and the State has the authority to regulate its sale.

The Delhi government said there is an element of privilege in relation to sale or dealing in liquor and that the State is free to regulate it under the Excise law.

Opposing a batch of petitions challenging its May 4 notification levying the ‘special corona fee’ on liquor, the Delhi government said that the State is also free to impose and recover a price for grant of such privilege.

The pleas are listed for hearing on Friday.

Dip in revenue

Delhi government’s Department of Excise, in an affidavit, said that owing to the clamp-down on all economic activities due to the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, the revenue had shrunk by almost 90% in April 2020 and the total collections dwindled to a mere ₹300 crore as opposed to approximately ₹4,000 crore in the corresponding month in 2019.

Between May 4 and 25, the total sale of operational liquor vends has been ₹187 crore, which is way too less as compared to the sale figures of May 2019 as the number of shops operational last year were around 800 and as of now, only 40% of them are operational due to various restrictions imposed by the government, it said.

The Delhi government said the total excise revenue, including the ‘corona fee’, collected by the State from May 4 to May 25 has been to the tune of ₹227.44 crore, which includes ₹127 crore of ‘special corona fee’, as against the total revenue collection of ₹425.24 crore in May last year.

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