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State asks cops to mind their own business

Chief secy writes to police dept, says force should not interfere with matters related to liquor licence

After the recent raids on bars by the police, the state government seems to be worried about the losses it will incur if the force continues its crackdown on liquor joints. The chief secretary has written to the police department to not interfere in things that are not under its purview.



The letter issued by Chief Secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad on January 13 states the purpose of the missive is to inform the force that no official from the police department should interfere in work that is related to liquor and liquor licences.

It says the police are supposed to inform the Excise Department if they find any excise violations, and they are not supposed to book any bar owner for things that do not come under their purview.
 
"We are happy that the government has finally issued some serious instructions to the Mumbai police department," said a senior excise official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
 
"For the past seven months we have been complaining about the loss in revenue that we are facing due the allaged harassment by the police, and because of which many bars preferred to remain shut."

The excise official added, "The police were found interfering in our work and thousands of times this interference was brought to their notice. However, the harassment still continued and the impact was seen on our sales figures."

The official said that on New Year's Eve, many bars were harassed by the police and were forced to shut much before the deadline of 5 am. "The impact was clearly seen on sales figures. Sale of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) and country liquor took a major hit due to the alleged harassment," said the officer.

MiD DAY had reported on January 12 ('City in low spirits') on alcohol sales registering a record 11 per cent dip in December 2011 compared to the corresponding month in 2010. December is a festive period that usually witnesses a rise in sales.

The letter issued by Gaikwad says the the state excise department has been given a target of Rs 8,500 crore, to achieve which the department is already keeping a tab on the sale of illegal liquor. Keeping these factors in mind, all police officers should pass on any information to the nearest excise ward officers, says the letter.

"The role of the police was made clear in 2005 itself, when a person named Santosh Naik had approached the HC seeking clarification of the roles of the police and the excise department.

The HC has clearly stated that the police department will have no role to play as far as sale of liquor is concerned. Still, the cops fail to follow the norms. It is high time that the police department stops interfering in excise matters," said the official.

If statistics are to be believed, in the suburbs, which house most of the  restaurants and pubs, the consumption of liquor has decreased by 27 lakh litres. In south Mumbai, the consumption of IMFL saw a fall of 13 lakh litres.

Bharat Thakur, a member of the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association, said, "There was a time when our waitresses were booked by the police department though we had licence from excise.

Many of our colleagues have lately stopped operating during the day to avoid any harassment from the Mumbai police. This has affected our business a great deal. The excise department asks us why our sales are down, but we are helpless, as these days very few tipplers prefer coming to us."

Officialspeak
A B Ghatol, joint commissioner, state excise, confirmed that the order asking the police to not interfere in excise matters had been passed, but he refused to comment further. Chief Secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad was unavailable for comment.



ACP (Social Service Branch) Vasant Dobhle said the police do not interfere in excise matters and do not get involved in checking liquor licences. "We just check the map (layout) of the bar that is sanctioned by the Excise Department. The police have the authority to check the map," he said.

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