Ramakanta Biswas

The Orissa High Court on Wednesday upheld the decision of the Odisha government to award liquor shop licences through lottery system.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice BP Routray rejected a batch of writ petitions challenging the selection of applicants for liquor shops through a lottery system.

According to sources, the Odisha government had decided that under the new policy, licences for all new IMFL OFF Shops were to be allotted through a process of lottery while licences in respect of existing shops were to be renewed annually.

However, Nabin Kumar Singh and others in their writ petitions contended that “There is no provision in the Odisha Excise Act for introducing lottery as one of the modes of settlements of exclusive privilege, the collection fees and duty.”

“Lottery is one of the species in gambling under Entry-40 of List-I of the Constitution of India. Therefore, there could be no law of the State to regulate the lottery of any kind,” the petitioners stated.

“The State Government ought to have obtained the Presidential sanction under Article 258(1) of the Constitution of India before it could make a law in relation to lottery,” they added. 

The HC bench cited an earlier judgement which stated that the State has the exclusive right to make a law to regulate the activity of trade in liquor is well recognized for several decades now.   

“The Court is unable to agree with the contention of the petitioners that the policy of the State to switch over to lottery as a mode of determination of fees for parting with the EP of trade in IMFL through OFF Shops is irrational and arbitrary,” the bench observed.  

“This Court finds no merits in any of these writ petitions. Accordingly, the writ petitions are dismissed,” it added.