Senior Advocate Virag Tulzapurkar, for the petitioners, opposed the notification on various grounds.
Firstly, he submitted that no reasons were disclosed for changing of the license fees. He stated that Rule 2 of the Periodicity Rules requires that if there is change (decrease or increase) of more than 10% from the previous year’s fees, the changed rates can only be notified after a prior direction from the State Government but there was no such direction.
He further contended that the State government wrongfully refused to extend the payment deadline or to grant installment payment facilities and also failed to consider the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions had on the petitioners and their businesses.
Therefore, he submitted that the notification was unreasonable, irrational, arbitrary and liable to be struck down.
Tulzapurkar also argued that the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949 entitles the petitioners to a refund in cases where the license is cancelled by the granting authority for reasons which are not the licensee’s fault or due to a breach on the part of the licensee.
He further drew the court’s attention the Disaster Management Act, submitting that Section 38 of the same casts a duty upon the State to mitigate losses and also to provide rehabilitation to victims of such disasters. The foreign-liquor vending hotels are, he claimed, were ‘victims’ of the ‘Covid-19 disaster’ and they are entitled to be ‘rehabilitated’.