March 18: The printing of excise-duty stickers for alcoholic beverages and tobacco products has resumed after a tumultuous legal battle. The Inland Revenue Department (IRD) has initiated the process of printing 7.83 billion units of excise-duty stickers within two years.
The IRD has handed a letter of intent (LoI) to Perum Peruri, a public enterprise for banknotes printing and minting of Indonesia, in this regard.
The department had issued an international tender notice for printing of excise-duty stickers on September 30 last year.
According to chief of the IRD Thaneshwar Gautam, a total of four companies from India, China, Indonesia and Lithuania had responded to the tender notice. Among them, the Indonesian company had submitted a proposal with the lowest bidding of Rs 1.65 billion.
Gautam said that the department will sign an agreement with Perum Peruri within a few days to start the process of printing the stickers with a deadline of two years.
Four years ago, the same company was also awarded a contract to print 4.97 billion units of excise-duty stickers. The stickers printed back then are still in use.
The department was under pressure to initiate a new process to print such stickers as it was running out of stock. According to the department, it is now left with stickers that can meet the demand only for the current fiscal year.
The process met with an early setback due to a complaint filed at the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament soon after the IRD issued the tender notice. The complainants had argued that some criteria mentioned in the tender notice including 10-year experience of the printing company would bar local companies from participating in the bidding process.
Following the complaint, the PAC directed the government to halt the printing process on October 16. It also instructed the government to initiate a new process allowing the local companies to participate in the bidding process.
One month later on November 13, Mohan Raj Ghimire on behalf of Mirage Printing Solution filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court demanding annulment of the printing process. The apex court issued an interim order on November 15 directing the concerned authorities to halt the process.
Finally, a division bench of SC justices Deep Kumar Karki and Tanka Bahadur Moktan on February 24 quashed the petition, clearing the hurdle for the IRD to move ahead with the process.
According to the Ministry of Finance, the government has been collecting revenue worth Rs 57.87 billion every year from the excise-duty stickers for alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.