Bombay High Court: Hotels, Restaurants & Bars to Pay License Fee at Pre-revised Rate by 1st June

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The High Court of Bombay permitted revised license rate fee for hotels, restaurants and bars in Maharashtra. The new fee will come into force from 1st June 2020. The change is due to the vulnerable situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Introduction

Justice NJ Jamdar heard the petition filed by Hotel & Restaurant Association Western India. The issue was with the notification dated 30th January 2020 by the bar license holders. The notification was issued under Maharashtra Portable Liquor Rules, 1996. Earlier, HC made restrictions from taking coercive steps in the case for a default payment.

Petitioner’s Submission

Senior Counsel Virag Tulzapurkar appears on behalf of the petitioner association. AGP Geeta Shastri & AGP Abhay Patki appears for the State Excise Commissioner. Initially, due to the impact of COVID-19, the Government had granted an enhanced facility for fee payment. The facility included paying a fee in three different instalments. That is 25% by June 30, 25% by 30th September and 50% by 31st December 2020. A circular dated 26th March granted this facility.

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A new notification came with an option to pay the entire fee by 30th April at pre-revised rates. This notification issued on 13th April came by demand.

State’s Submission 

AGP Patki opposes the prayer for extension of time for payment. This stance was due to the fact that the petitioner already has two pre-existing options. Thus, the petitioner association does not deserve any further extension of time. As it is the format for completion of payments is either in instalments or at revised rates in full.

Justice Jamdar’s Observation

Given the lock-down measures, the business, in general, has come to a standstill. The members of the petitioner association should not be an exception. The Government has permitted the pre-revised license fee rate given the situation. An extension of time till 1st June 2020 to pay the license fee would not cause severe prejudice to the State. Thus, the time given to pay the license fee at pre-revised rate stands extended till 1st June 2020.

Court’s Decision

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Court refused further relief stating:

The Court granted time for payment of licensee fee at the revised rate. It would be unreasonable to extend the matter, considering the time already granted. Thus, the liberty sought for by the learned senior counsel for the petitioner refused.


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