The Supreme Court on Friday refused to pass any orders staying the sale of liquor during the lockdown. The top court, however, said that states could consider online delivery of alcohol to check the massive crowds outside liquor shops across the country and maintain social distancing.
The observation came from a three-judge bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by one Guruswamy Nataraj objecting to across the counter sale of liquor.
The petition argued that the government cannot meddle with human life by allowing crowds to gather outside liquor shops.
As the government took first steps to relax the Covid-19 lockdown to revive the economy, hundreds queued up at liquor stores in New Delhi and other cities.
Some stores in parts of Delhi had to be closed due to the large number of people gathered there.
The Delhi government even imposed a special tax of 70 per cent on retail liquor purchases to deter large gatherings but that did not stop people from coming out and heading towards the liquor shops.
It then introduced a token system which people can buy online. The move is aimed at stopping people from coming out and gather outside liquor shops.
The Uttar Pradesh government recently announced an increase in prices of all categories of liquor, including country liquor, to mop up additional revenue of Rs 2,350 crore.
A similar plea has also been filed in the Delhi High Court seeking direction to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi to start online sale of liquor to ensure social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The petitioner sought direction to the Delhi government to evolve a proper policy to start the online sale of liquor and deliver it to the consumers’ homes at a time when the entire machinery of the country is tirelessly working to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.
After the lockdown was extended till May 17, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued new guidelines allowing liquor shops to open.