The existing excise regime in Delhi, which was introduced on September 1 last year, is likely to be extended beyond its scheduled expiration date of September 30. As of Monday, the Delhi government has not officially announced the details of the new policy that would replace the current one.
This development follows a significant turn of events last year when the government abandoned its previous excise policy. This decision was made after Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena recommended a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) probe into alleged irregularities in the implementation of the former policy in July, a PTI reports said.
The existing excise policy was initially put in place as a temporary measure on September 1, 2022, with the intention of bridging the gap until a new, comprehensive policy could be formulated and implemented by the Delhi government. Originally, this interim policy was set to expire on March 31, but the Delhi government extended it for an additional six months, now reaching the new expiration date of September 30.
However, a challenge has arisen for excise license holders in the hotel, club, and restaurant (HCR) category. They are currently experiencing difficulties with the police verification process required for the renewal of their permits, according to Manpreet Singh, the treasurer of the National Restaurant Association (NRAI).
Singh noted that the renewal of excise licenses by September 30 could be jeopardized, as the police are not accepting applications for verification from individuals. HCR category licenses must be renewed annually, and this year’s renewal deadline coincides with the expiration of the existing policy on September 30.
Police authorities have informed applicants that the verification process must be handled through a government agency or department rather than by individuals. Additionally, they have expressed concerns about processing a large volume of verifications within a short timeframe.
Nonetheless, Singh mentioned that the excise department has provided assurances that the renewal of HCR category licenses will not face obstacles due to police verification issues. According to him, department officials have indicated that they will resolve the verification issue at their level and issue further instructions accordingly.
There has been no immediate response from the Delhi Police or the excise department regarding this matter.
In a related development from August, the excise department made it mandatory for proprietors and partners of firms operating hotels, clubs, and restaurants with bars to submit police verification certificates. This requirement was introduced to ensure that individuals holding excise licenses had a clean moral character and no criminal record.
The city currently has over 970 HCR category licensees, with around 400 of them seeking police verification, according to bar owners. While the character verification of the primary applicant applying for an HCR category license is carried out by the Delhi Police, the excise department has requested verification for all directors and partners involved in joint ownership cases where licenses were issued by the department.
Sources have pointed out that conducting background checks for such a large number of individuals within the established deadline may pose a challenge for the police, despite having a dedicated branch for this purpose.
(With PTI inputs)