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It's For The Govt Not The Court To Decide How Liquor Can Be Sold" SC Allows TN Govt. To Chart Out Methods To Sell Liquor

Radhika Roy
12 Jun 2020 10:39 AM GMT
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The Supreme Court, while observing that it was the State Government and not the Court which could decide how liquor could be sold, allowed the Government of Tamil Nadu to devise methods to sell liquor, online or via physical sales. 

A Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah heard the Appeal filed by Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) against the Madras High Court order which had directed for closure of liquor stores in the State of Tamil Nadu during the lockdown imposed in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 8, the Madras HC, while noting that the norms of social distancing were being violated due to the opening of liquor shops in the State as large crowds and serpentine queues had formed in front of the retail shops, directed for closure of the stores and, permitted online sales and home delivery of alcohol. Consequently, TASMAC had filed an Appeal against the Madras HC Order before the Supreme Court.

On the previous hearing, the Appeal was heard by a Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, SK Kaul and BR Gavai, who stayed the Madras HC's order, thereby effectively allowing liquor stores to be reopened in the State of Tamil Nadu. They further observed that the Court could only ask the State to consider selling liquor online as it was a domain of policy wherein the Court could not interfere.

In today's hearing, Advocate L. Sundaram apprised the Court that the issue was to be considered by the Madras HC. However, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing on behalf of TASMAC, responded that there was no question of anything being decided at this point as the lockdown had been practically lifted in the whole country now.

To this submission, Justice Kaul stated that the issue was now regarding regulation as the liquor shops had opened across the country.

Mukul Rohatgi has sought three weeks' time to file affidavit regarding status of the shops which are run by Tamil Nadu State Marketing State Corporation Limited and steps taken with regard to regulation of sale of liquor in different shops.

The Court has granted three weeks' time to file affidavit.

"We, however, observe that it shall be open for the State to take a call with regard to manner of distribution, sale of liquor (on-line sale and home delivery also) and issue appropriate guidelines for managing them".

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing on behalf of an organization which sought to regulate the sale of alcohol, submitted to the Court that there was scientific backing to the fact that alcohol must not be consumed with COVID as it had the tendency to aggravate the symptoms.

The Bench headed Justice Bhushan heard the submissions and accordingly allowed the Tamil Nadu Government to chart out methods to sell liquor, online or via physical sales, while noting that the Court could not lay down how liquor could be sold and it was for the State Governments to decide.

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