The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Tuesday withdrew the additional excise duty of 50 per cent levied on liquor after the outbreak of COVID-19 as a new excise policy for the remainder of 2020-2021 financial year came into force in the Union Territory, a senior government officer said.
Excise Commissioner Rajesh Kumar Shavan said the new policy for the first time provides for reservation of 12 per cent to six categories of people, including ex-servicemen, those belonging weaker sections and unemployed youths, in opening bars and restaurants at tourist destinations across the Union Territory.
"The additional 50 per cent excise duty on liquor (which was levied in May), commonly known as corona tax, has been withdrawn from today after the implementation of the new excise policy," Shavan told reporters here.
He highlighted various features of the policy and said it focused on transparency in the liquor trade, besides boosting revenues through rationalization of duties.
In the policy objectives, the government notification among other things said it was meant to rationalise the number of taxes, duties and other levies to optimize revenues for common good and check bootlegging or smuggling of bottled in origin (BIO) brands in the UT from outside.
It said the objective is also to provide choice of brands and adequate places for consumption to its consumers and a level-playing field to those in this business.
"There was a notion that poor people were not getting representation in the trade which is only meant for rich people. The government has taken a considerate and judicious view and for the first time in the past 70 years reservation is being given to six categories of people who also included specially-abled and Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and other backward classes."
According to the notification, 12 per cent of the total liquor vends to be auctioned at any time in future is proposed to be earmarked or set aside for these categories. Within the overall ceiling of 12 per cent quota, each of these six categories may be assigned two per cent of actionable liquor vends.
To encourage unemployed youths, the excise commissioner said special concession on license fee would be given to those who wish to open bars and restaurants at tourist places, including Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonmarg, and areas falling under the jurisdiction of tourism development authorities like Mansar and Kishtwar.
"There will be transparency in issuance of licenses,” he said, adding there is a provision in the new policy to open new outlets in unserved or under-served areas in the UT.
As per the notification, the bars located at tourist places of Sonamarg, Gulmarg, Pahalgam and areas falling under various Tourism Development Authorities shall pay half the amount of prescribed annual license fee subject to review on yearly basis by the authority concerned.
Shavan said army and paramilitary forces would get liquor at much cheaper prices as the excise duty and import duty on the Canteen Stores Department (CSD) would be 25 per cent less than that on civil for all types of liquor.
“There are 600 companies supplying liquor to the army and paramilitary forces and 80 per cent of the consignments come from outside J&K,” he said.
He said there were some high and premier brands which were hitherto not available to the consumers in Jammu and Kashmir, but the government has now decided to encourage import of these brands and has decided to levy 20 per cent tax, instead of 35 per cent on such brands