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BJP-ruled UP, TMC-governed Bengal on same page in SC over regulation of industrial alcohol

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New Delhi, Apr 3 (PTI) BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and TMC-governed West Bengal were on the same page in the Supreme Court on Wednesday where they asserted the legislative power vested in states to regulate industrial alcohol is untrammelled and complete and beyond the Centre's jurisdiction.

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A nine-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud is examining the issue of overlapping powers of the Centre and states in production, manufacturing, supply and regulation of industrial alcohol.

A clutch of petitions came before the bench after a seven-judge constitution bench ruled against the states.

The matter was referred to a nine-judge bench in 2010 after a seven-judge bench ruled in 1997 that the Centre will have the regulatory power over production of industrial alcohol. The seven-judge bench had in 1990 observed that through the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951, the Union had "evinced clear intention to occupy" legislative competence on the subject and hence Entry 33 could not empower a state government.

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Senior advocate Dinesh Dwivedi, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, told the court that liquor has always been within the legislative sphere of states and the Centre does not have any jurisdiction with regard to industrial alcohol.

Excise, liquor and spirit have always been part of state's jurisdiction, including industrial alcohol, he said.

"The Central government has not issued any order to regulate industrial alcohol as per Section 18G of the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951. Therefore, there cannot be a case of conflict or occupied field. The field is unoccupied and the states' power to legislate to regulate industrial alcohol is untrammelled and complete," Dwivedi told the bench.

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The bench also comprises Justices Hrishikesh Roy, Abhay S Oka, B V Nagarathna, J B Pardiwala, Manoj Misra, Ujjal Bhuyan, Satish Chandra Sharma and Augustine George Masih.

Dwivedi said states' exclusive jurisdiction cannot be made dependent on parliamentary legislation as it would be against the very essence of the country's federal structure.

He submitted that the top court's decision in the 'Synthetic and Chemicals' case in 1990 took away the states' power in relation to industrial alcohol even under Entry 33 of the Concurrent List, which provides for trade and commerce in production, supply and distribution of certain industrial products.

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Senior advocate Arvind Datar, also appearing for the UP government, said the decision given in the 'Synthetics and Chemicals' case renders the state legislatures incompetent to legislate on rectified spirit.

"Synthetics and Chemicals case erroneously treated 'alcoholic liquor for human consumption' as 'alcoholic liquor fit for human consumption'," he said.

Senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, appearing for the West Bengal government, submitted that all liquids having alcohol qualify as intoxicating liquor and fall under Entry 8 of List II of the Seventh Schedule, which confers on states exclusive jurisdiction to control and regulate all kinds of spirits produced from molasses.

"The entirety of the control should be with the state," Gupta insisted.

The hearing remained inconclusive and will continue tomorrow. PTI PKS DV PKS SK SK

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