Oct 15, 2021

Respondents issued notice over liquor sticker case Featured

The Court of Appeal, after considering a petition seeking a writ of certiorari quashing the tender awarded by the Excise Department to the Madras Security Printers of India to print foolproof stickers on liquor bottles and cans, issued notice on respondents on Wednesday.
Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Secretary to the Ministry of Finance S.R. Attygalle, Commissioner General of Excise M.J. Gunasiri, Madras Security Printers and Attorney General have been named as respondents.

The petitioner, Rathu Bambarendage Lasantha Kumara, states in his petition that the Excise Department has awarded the tender to the Madras Security Printers (MSP) without conducting proper technical evaluation OR following tender procedures.

The petitioner has said the introduction of the sticker with a code on bottles and cans cost only 15 cents as per practice adopted in many other countries but the Excise Department has decided to spend about two rupees per bottle or can.

The petitioner states that Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana raised the issue in Parliament on 20 April and the MP pointed out the questionable practice adopted by the Excise Department to grant the contract to MSP, a blacklisted company in India as well as in several other countries. MP Pathirana categorically pointed out that the State would incur a one-billion-rupee loss due to the deal.

The petitioner says the corrupt practice has caused a great foreign exchange loss to the government of Sri Lanka which is already in a grave state of affairs in terms of country’s foreign reserves.

The petitioner also states that the officials of the Excise Department continuously engaged in corrupt practices by not collecting dues from the liquor industry either by not implementing proper and transparent procedure or by giving contracts to corrupt dealers.

The MSP on many occasions “while taking contracts to supply security printing stickers of manufacturers has illegally collected exorbitant amounts from such manufacturers and caused enormous losses to the respective States,” and “is a notorious company world widely engaged in such corrupt practices,” states the petitioner.

The granting of contract to supply of the foolproof security stickers and/or Digital Image Printing on liquor products in terms of Excise Notification under the Excise Ordinance to MSP is illegal, unlawful, unreasonable, ultra vires and shall be quashed and/or cancelled, says the petitioner.

After considering the facts submitted by the petitioner, the court issued notice on respondents.

Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC, Attorneys-at-law Dasun Nagasena, Rakhita Rajapakshe, Madhwa Jayawardene and Jayamudhita Jayasuriya appeared for the petitioner.

Senior State Counsel, Suranga Wimalasena appeared for respondents Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa and the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance S.R. Attygalle.

Gamini Maparana PC and Naveen Marapana PC appeared for respondent MSP.
(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by island.lk has not been edited by SLM staff)