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The High Court of Chhattisgarh has directed the state government to frame a new liquor procurement policy within a month, ruling in favour of Diageo and Pernod Ricard, the country’s top two distillers, which had alleged unfair practices by the government.

Last year, the Chhattisgarh government had decided that liquor sales would only be allowed through government-owned corporations. Diageo and Pernod Ricard approached the high court, complaining that the government’s wholesale and retail units were trying to drive them out of the state by favouring other suppliers and restricting their orders to minimal.

In its order the court said the choice of the consumers has to prevail. “There should be a la carte system and consumer, who is master of his choice, should be allowed to purchase according to his wishes and all the brands should be made available in the shops across the counter.

The new policy should ensure fairness and equality in procurement within four weeks.

The Chhattisgarh High Court order also said Diageo and Pernod Ricard are being discriminated against and the state has not been able to show that they have put in place a fair and transparent policy regarding the procurement of beverage alcohol.

The fact that the officials of the excise department and other senior government officers hold dual charge in the corporations in various capacities is impermissible in law as it creates a conflict of interest.