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HC raps excise minister for ignoring public sentiments
August, 20th 2012

Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court has chided Maharashtra Excise Minister Ganesh Naik for overlooking opposition of the local people and elected representatives to a liquor joint in a residential area here.

"A holder of Public office is expected to uphold public trust. He should have been more careful and responsible. He is the Minister of Prohibition..." the division bench said in the ruling on Friday.

Residents had moved HC against the license issued to the bar, and when single judge ruled in residents' favour, the owner moved division bench. But the bench upheld the order.

Naik, an NCP Minister, had overruled the Collector, adverse police report and Excise Commissioner's decision while granting liquor licence to the bar.

"The suggestion is that let such licences be issued and you have no voice in issuance of same....The learned Minister's view of the prohibition law can certainly not be taken and ought not be and possibly is not the view of State," bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and M T Joshi said.

If the state were to adopt the Minister's view, "that would certainly give rise to conflicts and tension within the society....That means, nobody working or residing in cities and colonies can complain about permission for setting up hotels, liquor shops, beer bars, etc....They can only approach and complain to the authorities after such activities commence and are carried out," the judges said.

"Power and discretion cannot be exercised as per the whims and fancies....If the orders of the nature passed....If discretionary power has not been exercised bearing in mind public interest, then, while striking down the act and order, it is equally the duty of the Court to remind the State of doctrine of Good Governance.

"If the order or opinion of the learned Minister is to be taken as a view of the State Government, then there is likelihood of liquor licences being granted for the asking even if there are large scale complaints from public," said the High Court.

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