The Bombay High Court on Friday heard a writ petition filed by Maharashtra Wine Merchants Association and refused to allow the prayer for over the counter sale of liquor in Mumbai. Court asked the Municipal Commissioner to decide on the issue.
Division bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and NR Borkar granted four weeks time to the State and other respondents to file a reply regarding the prayer seeking directions to refund the proportionate amount of license fee.
The petitioners prayed for two reliefs- firstly, refund of the proportionate amount of licence fee and secondly a challenge to the notifications/orders dated May 5, May 12 and May 22, with a direction to permit over the counter retail liquor sale in Mumbai.
Advocate Charanjeet Chandarpal appeared on behalf of the petitioners and Government Pleader PP Kakade for the State.
Chanderpal submitted that in the cities of Pune and Nashik, where an identical situation exists, normal counter sale of retail liquor is permitted and there is no reason why the same norms are not applied in Mumbai.
Chanderpal also referred to the order passed by the Supreme Court in respect of a petition arising from Tamil Nadu on the same issue. SC had stayed an order passed by the Madras High Court wherein closure of over the counter sale of alcohol was ordered and home delivery of alcohol was allowed instead. Chanderpal submitted that the system of online/home delivery of liquor is fraught with various difficulties and can have adverse social impact, and it is also not safe. Thus he sought relevant directions to the respondents and quashing of impugned notifications.
The bench noted-
"The impugned order dated 22 May 2020 issued by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai does not permit over the counter sale of liquor and permits e-commerce platforms to be utilized for delivery. This decision is in the nature of policy. Such a decision entails evaluation of various competing factors. Situation may differ from place to place. The relevant factors can also undergo a change by passage of time."
Therefore, the Court concluded that the petition should be placed as a representation before the Municipal Commissioner who will take an appropriate decision on the issue. Court will now hear the petition on the issue of refund of proportionate license fee once the State files a reply within four weeks.
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