The Supreme Court on Friday suggested that the state governments should consider online sale or home delivery of liquor amid the Coronavirus lockdown so that social distancing norms are not flouted and overcrowding at alcohol shops doesn’t take place, while declining to entertain a PIL (public interest litigation) seeking a ban on direct sale of liquor (sale through shops) during the lockdown period.
The apex court bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and BR Gavai heard the case via video conferencing. The PIL filed under Article 32 of the Constitution complained of indiscriminate flouting of all social distancing norms at the liquor vends after they were reopened on May 4.
The 3 judge bench said, “We will not pass any order but states should consider indirect sale or home delivery of liquor to maintain social distancing.”
Representing the petitioner, Advocate Sai Deepak argued that the opening of liquor shops should not meddle with the lives of the common people and MHA should issue clarification to states on liquor sales.
The petition sought direction from the apex court to the Centre in order to declare the new Covid-19 guidelines issued by the Union of India, which permit the sale of liquors at liquor vends through direct contact sales during the lockdown period “as unconstitutional, null and void”.
The petition argued that prohibition of sale of liquor for human consumption at liquor vends through direct contact sales during the lockdown period would eventually contribute to containing the spread of Covid-19 in India, until the National Disaster Management Authority or the Centre declares India to be Covid-19 free.
After the lockdown was imposed in India from March 25 alcohol stores were also closed down and reopened on May 4 creating a chaos with hundreds of people queuing up out side liquor shops disregarding social distancing norms,leading to police baton charging to disperse the crowd.
As the Centre extended the current lockdown by another couple of weeks the Home Ministry gave this reprieve by allowing alcohol sale and purchase but only through stand-alone shops, except for the containment zone.
Opening of liquor shops has become a huge challenge for states as well as the Central government as long queues were seen outside these outlets on Monday morning with social distancing going for a toss.