The Madhya Pradesh High Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the state government on a petition filed by liquor contractors seeking a directive that their contracts be either reviewed or recalled in view of the "unstable" market condition caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A division bench of Chief Justice AK Mittal and Justice VK Shukla posted the next hearing to May 19, after issuing the notice which is returnable in two weeks.
The petition was filed on a day the state government allowed reopening of shops in Madhya Pradesh, barring Bhopal, Ujjain and Indore under red zone.
"The petition filed by 30 liquor contractors from various parts of the state sought either revision of the terms and conditions of their contract or recalling of the entire bidding process of liquor sale for the current fiscal in view of the market situation (economic slowdown) arising out of the COVID pandemic," said the petitioners' counsel Rahul Diwakar.
The terms and conditions of the license were based on normal market conditions but the situation has changed drastically now, he said.
"As per the clause 36 of the Excise Policy, the liquor licensees are allowed to operate their shops between 9.30 am and 11.30 pm daily," stated the petition.
However, due to curtailment of timings since May 5, it has become difficult for them to earn the expected amount of revenue quoted in their bids, the counsel said.
The excise policy permits liquor contractors to run and operate retail shops, bars and ''ahatas'' (low budget drinking vends usually attached to liquor shops), Mr Diwakar said.
"However, in view of COVID-19 pandemic, bars and ''ahatas'' have been directed to remain shut which makes the licensees pay the fees every fortnight," he said.
Meanwhile, a liquor contractor told PTI that they bag the annual contracts to sell liquor through a biddings process.
"We have to pay an annual licence fee which is in crores. We make part payment of the fee every fortnight," he added.