"To encourage digital payment and online booking of the purchase orders of the liquor, we further direct that those who book online and make online digital payments through banking channels are permitted to buy up to two bottles of one type of liquor in a day. The others who do not make online payments and do not book orders online, as they may not have such mobile phone facility at all, will be allowed to purchase only one bottle of 750 mi in a day, on the basis of tokens issued to them."
Ahead of opening of the TASMAC liquor shops in the state from today onwards, the Madras High Court on Wednesday issued detailed instructions, regulating the sale of liquor amid the lockdown.
The order has been passed by a division bench of Justice Vineet Kothari and Justice Pushpa Sathyanaranana while refusing to impose an "absolute ban" on the sale of liquor.
The Petitioner, B Ramkumar Adityan had sought quashing/ deferment of the Govt order dated May 4, 2020 whereby it was notified that TASMAC liquor shops will be re-opened from May 7, 2020. He had contended that the decision will throw the social distancing norms to the wind and will further increase the threat of Corona virus. inter alia, the bench heard a batch of connected petitions on the subject.
While declining any such remedy, the bench proceeded to impose the following supplementary guidelines, in addition to those issued by the Government for sale of liquor during the lockdown:
The High Court has directed the state Government to consider issuance of tokens for purchase of liquor online as issuing the same at the shops itself is likely to cause serious threat to social distancing norms.
"We direct that the State and TASMAC should consider immediately the method of sale of liquors online and upon online payment, Tokens can be issued online to the persons concerned with the time slots given on the same, when the customer can go and collect his liquor bottles already sold to him on the Token produced by him or shown by him to the concerned sales persons. This will largely avoid unnecessary crowding at the TASMAC shops," the bench directed.
The bench clarified,
"The exception to online booking for liquor can be made only for those persons who do not have the phone facility available to them and cannot book it online and for whom, separate counters for issuance of Tokens and sale of distribution of liquor bottles can be opened at the TASMAC shop in question, so that the social distancing or physical distancing as per the norms prescribed and adopted."
Further, Bars attached to the Retail Vending shops will not be permitted to function and the entry point to such Bars attached to Retail Vending shops will be closed and sealed properly and drinking liquor in public places will be prohibited.
On Monday, the same bench had dismissed a PIL seeking absolute ban on manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol in the state of Tamil Nadu. Thereby, the court had held that opening or reopening of the State liquor shops is a "matter of State Policy" and judicial intereference was unwarranted for the same.
Citing this order, while also highlighting the "balance of revival of economic activity" in the State, the court refused to ban the sale of liquor.
Meanwhile, it has directed the State Government to consistently monitor the sale of liquor in terms of the aforesaid restrictions, depending upon the change of declaration of Green, Orange, Red and Containment zones, on day-to-day basis.
Pertinently, the Government has already decided not to open liquor shops in containment/ red zones. Further, to ensure Social distancing norms are enforced, different time slots for purchase of liquor, on the basis of age groups have been notified.
The matter will now be taken up on May 14.
Case Title: B Ramkumar Adityan v. Chief Secretary, Tamil Nadu & Ors.
Case No.: WP No. 7578/2020
Quorum: Justice Vineet Kothari and Justice Pushpa Sathyanaranana
Appearance: Senior Advocate R Vaigai, Advocates K Balu, Y Kavitha, K Balan Haridas and Anirudh Krishnan (for Petitioners); Advocate General Vijay Narayanan and Additional Advocate General SR Rajagopal, assisted by Government Pleader V Jayaprakash Narayanan (for State); Advocate Sathish (for TASMAC)
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