Supreme Court paves way for tax authority to procure excise duty stickersThe process to procure the excise stickers that need to be pasted on liquor and tobacco products had to be put on hold after a writ petition demanded that domestic printers also be allowed to participate in the bidding.
The Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for tax officials to resuscitate plans to buy excise duty stickers after it scrapped a petition filed against the procurement.
The process to procure the excise stickers that need to be pasted on liquor and tobacco products had to be put on hold after a writ petition demanded that domestic printers also be allowed to participate in the bidding.
“After the writ was scrapped, I think we can continue the procurement process we had started,” said Thaneshwor Gautam, deputy director-general at the Inland Revenue Department, which has been reeling under a shortage of stickers. “We will first see what the order says about the procurement and take appropriate measures.”
A bench of justices Deepak Kumar Karki and Tanka Bahadur Moktan scrapped the petition filed by Manoharraj Ghimire on November 14 on behalf of Mirage Printing Solutions Private Limited, vacated an interim stay it ordered earlier, and issued a directive to the government, the contents of which are yet to be released.
“The writ has been scrapped but what is there in the order was not immediately known,” Devendra Dhakal, information officer at the apex court, told the Post. “It will be known once the full text of the verdict is released.”
The order brings relief for the department, which has already run out of stickers meant for imported liquor. Officials say they won’t have stickers to sell to companies that distribute some popular liquor products within a month-and-half. In the absence of stickers for imported liquor, those meant for domestic products are being used by stamping them with an ‘imported’ label.
The department, planning to procure around 8 billion stickers for use over the next two years, was preparing to open bids it received through e-bidding when the writ was filed and an interim stay issued.
Based on cost per sticker maintained four years ago, the estimated cost for 8 billion stickers will be around Rs1.36 billion. Four years ago, a sticker had cost around 17 paisa, according to the department.
With the tax authority running out of stickers producers and importers of liquor and tobacco, one of the major contributors to government revenue, said they would have to shut down their businesses.
Just a few days before the interim order, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee had also ordered the government to immediately suspend the bidding, arguing that it barred domestic printers from participating in the process.
Reports suggested that the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology also pressed the Ministry of Finance to halt the tender process as it was planning to set up a dedicated security printing press in the country that could print the stickers. Gautam, however, told the Post last week that he was not aware of such reports.
The parliamentary Public Account Committee on Thursday issued yet another directive to the government on Thursday to halt the procurement of the security printing press after Minister Gokul Prasad Baskota was forced to resign amid allegations of bribery.