On Friday, the Supreme Court decided to refuse to put a stop on the sale of liquor across the country but in view of the COVID-19 crisis said that states should consider its online sale or home delivery in keeping with social distancing norms.
This decision by the court came after a PIL was filed by a public-spirited citizen Guruswamy Nataraj who sought a stay order on the May 1 notification issued by the Centre permitting liquor vends and shops to open across the country from May 4.
According to the petition, the decision to open liquor shops amidst a nationwide lockdown came with a public health threat. Social distancing was tossed out of the window at liquor shops as vends saw unmanageable crowds. At some places in Delhi, Rajasthan, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh, police also had to resort to a lathi-charge to manage the crowd.
Advocate J Sai Deepak, arguing the petition told the bench that direct contact sale of alcohol should be stopped and said that the Centre must consider selling liquor online.
While the bench of justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul, and BR Gavai saw merit in the suggestion of selling liquor online, they said that the decision rested with the states and not the Centre.
Sai Deepak told the bench that the national capital has given an option of online delivery and Chhattisgarh has started online sales. Punjab has also arranged for home delivery of liquor and Karnataka is undertaking the same on an experimental basis.
However, he said that this decision must come from the Centre for uniformity as an entire country under lockdown cannot afford to give social distancing a go-by. He believed that opening liquor stores will make the whole point of the lockdown redundant.
The matter was dismissed but the bench noted in its order, “It shall be open for the concerned state government to consider non-direct sale including online sale/home delivery of liquor to facilitate social distancing”.