The matter is called out for final hearing as the matter is specifically listed for final hearing in summer vacation. Heard the learned counsel for the Petitioner and the learned Government Pleader for the State.
2. The Petitioner which is a private limited company holding FL II license and carrying on business of selling liquor for more than several years have challenged the levy of fine of Rs. 1,50,000/- under Section 104 of the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949 (The Bombay Prohibition Act) by the impugned order dated 26 November, 1998 passed by Respondent No. 3 (Minister of State Excise Department).
3. There is no issue that there was transfer and assignment of the business. The Petitioner had applied to Respondent No. 1 for transferring the license and business under the provisions of Rule 61A of the Bombay Foreign Liquor Rules, 1953. The authorities at the relevant time had, after considering the submissions and materials placed on record, by a reasoned order quashed and set aside the order dated 30 March, 1998 passed by the Commissioner cancelling the license transfer and thereby restoring the actual license however, subject to payment of composition fee of Rs. 1,50,000/-.
4. The power vested with the Respondents in respect of composite fees is not in dispute. However, the submission raised is that based upon various orders passed by the concerned authority in similarly placed matters, while transferring the licenses a reasonable compensation fees ranging from Rs. 5,000/- and odd were charged. However, huge compensation fee of Rs. 1,50,000/- is charged against the Petitioner. This amounts to treating equals unequally.
5. Learned counsel appearing for the Petitioner has placed on record various orders passed in writ petitions in similarly placed matters, wherein the authorities have also charged sum of Rs. 5,000/- as compensation fees. Some of the orders are on record, including the order passed by the Collector on 26 November, 1998 and 26 November, 1997. There is no specific reason of imposing such an huge amount of Rs. 1,50,000/- and as there are earlier orders passed by the authorities in similarly placed matters where compensation fees were restricted to around Rs. 5,000/-. These similar orders are passed after considering the orders passed by the High Court in various writ petitions. There is no case made out and no reasons are given by the learned authority while imposing such huge compensation only against the Petitioner by passing the impugned order.
6. Therefore, taking overall view of the matter, I am inclined to interfere with the order passed only to the extent of imposing Rs. 1,50,000/- as compensation fees and restrict the same to Rs. 10,000/- which should be paid by the Petitioner. Learned counsel appearing for the Petitioner has pointed out that based upon impugned order dated 26 November, 1998, they have already deposited the amount under protest. In my view, in view of the above, the balance amount is required to be refunded to the Petitioner. The Petitioner to take steps by applying for refund and the Respondents to deal with the same as early as possible, preferably within a period of six weeks from today.
7. Learned counsel appearing for the Petitioner has prayed for interest on this amount. However, considering the facts and circumstances, I am passing this order today, therefore, there is no question of granting interest. The prayer for interest is rejected. However, the balance amount is required to be refunded to the Petitioner by following due process of law. The petition is disposed of.
8. Rule is made absolute in the above terms. No costs.