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A batch of petitions which challenged constitutional validity of the Bombay Prohibition Act empowering the Government to supervise the manufacture, purchase or sale of intoxicants or molasses or such articles enumerated in the provisions has rejected by the Bombay High Court.

The petitions challenged the powers of State under the Act to ask government employees to supervise in this area of business and also questioned state’s prerogative to recover the supervision cost from the manufacturers and other relevant categories of persons.

Under Section 58A of the Act, a power is vested in the state to issue a general or special order directing that the manufacture, import, export, transport, storage, sale, purchase, use, collection or cultivation of any intoxicant, denatured spirituous preparation, hemp, mhowra flowers and molasses shall be under the supervision of such prohibition and excise or police staff as it may deem proper to appoint.

This section also provides that the cost of supervision to be paid as salaries to the staff would be borne by the manufacturer or seller or purchaser as the case may be.

Section 114 of the Act provides for recovery of the supervision charges or cost of the supervision staff appointed under Section 58A of the Act.

Finding no merits in the petitions, Justices Mridula Bhatkar and A S Oka noted that the very object of Section 58A of the Act was to ensure that the licensee has to bear the entire cost of supervisory staff employed by the State. The Government is entitled to recover such costs for employing supervisory staff, they said.

“In view of what is held by the majority decision of the Apex Court, we see no arbitrariness in Section 58A or Section 114 of the Act”, the judges observed in the order delivered last week.

“In the present case, it is not in dispute that the salary of supervisory staff was increased with retrospective effect. In view of the law laid down by the Apex Court, the state government is entitled to recover the entire amount payable by way of salaries and allowances to the supervisory staff,” the judges ruled.

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