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States Can Consider Home Delivery Of Liquor/Indirect Sale To Facilitate Social Distancing: SC [Read Order]

States Can Consider Home Delivery Of Liquor/Indirect Sale To Facilitate Social Distancing:  SC [Read Order]
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[Updated with Order]The Supreme Court on Friday bserved that the State can consider selling liquor via Home Delivery and/or inculcate indirect sales during the Coronavirus induced lockdown.A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul & BR Gavai made this remark while hearing a petition challenging the opening of liquor shops by various state government.The bench observed that...

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[Updated with Order]

The Supreme Court on Friday bserved that the State can consider selling liquor via Home Delivery and/or inculcate indirect sales during the Coronavirus induced lockdown.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul & BR Gavai made this remark while hearing a petition challenging the opening of liquor shops by various state government.

The bench observed that passing orders on the plea under  Article 32 was not feasible and added that States must effectuate social distancing while selling liquor by considering the other viable options.

"We will not pass any order. States should consider indirect sale or Home Delivery of liquor to maintain social distancing", observed the bench orally

"We are not inclined to entertain this petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. The petition is dismissed.

However, it shall be open for the concerned State Government to consider non-direct sale including on-line sale/home delivery of liquor to facilitate social distancing", stated the order passed by the Court.

Advocate Sai Deepak appeared for petitioner(s) in a plea filed by Advocate-on-Record Anindita Mitra and submitted that the opening of liquor shops must not meddle with life of "the common man".

"MHA must make clarifications in this regard, life of the common man must not get affected" , submitted Advocate Sai Deepak.

The petitioner further pointed out that the issue was that there were "less shops of liquor than there were buyers which was creating a nuisance"



The petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India had been filed in "public interest", seeking issuance of a writ, order or direction in order to declare the New Covid-19 Guidelines issued by Respondent Union of India, to the extent they permit the sale of alcoholic liquors for human consumption at liquor vends/shops through direct contact sales during the lockdown period, "as unconstitutional, null and void".

Additionally, the petitioner sought directions for prohibition of sale of alcoholic liquors for human consumption at liquor vends/shops through direct contact sales, during the lockdown period to prevent and control the spread of Covid-19 in India, until National Disaster Management Authority or Centre declares India to be Covid-19 free.

Liquor shops shut down all over India after the nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24 and were reopened on May 4.

The plea expressly cites chaos which led to 'unmanageable situations' around liquor stores in various parts of the country on May 4, as a result of the New lockdown guidelines issued by the MHA on May 1 permitting the opening of liquor vends, to urge the Court to pass such orders.

Relying on multiple media reports from various states, the petitioner apprised the Court of the disorderly gatherings at such shops where social distancing norms were flouted and how, in certain places, the police had to resort to lathi charges due to the swell of crowds.

The health and safety of all persons gathering at liquor stores, police officials manning the same as well as that of the public at large has been jeopardized as the risk of transmitting COVID-19 increases by reopening these stores, it is contended.

"The health and safety of all persons who gather at and around the liquor vends/shops, the personnel of the liquor vends/shops, the police officials who have to be deployed and intervene, passers-by and the public at large is being endangered and jeopardised, increasing the scope for further transmission of Covid-19 amongst the population. The reopening of liquor vends/shops, which rely wholly on direct contact sales to the consuming public, is resulting and will result in unmanageable crowds, leading to the high risk of transmission and spread of Covid-19 due to difficulties in managing physical distancing during such sales, apart from serious issues of maintenance of law and order at such liquor vends/shops." - Excerpt from the Petition enunciates.

Alluding to the guidelines permitting liquor stores to reopen as counterproductive, the petition goes on to raise three pertinent concerns in this regard. First concern expressed is that of public health and hygiene, which would lead to the spread of COVID-19 due to "the impossibility of ensuring physical distancing guidelines at such shops".

Citing the difficulty in maintaining social distancing norms around these stores due to the uncertainty amongst people in terms of the continuance of the lockdown, the petitioner's second concern is regarding the risk of breakdown of law and order.

Lastly, flouting of physical distancing would risk the increase in spread of COVID-19, which in turn would further burden the healthcare system unnecessarily, argues the petitioner. Referring to publications by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) and World Health Organization (WHO), the petitioner also asserts that the myth that drinking alcohol prevents COVID-19 has been dispelled. It further adds that drinking alcohol, on the contrary, may be detrimental.

"The re-opening of liquor vends, for direct contact sale of liquor for human consumptions at this juncture contradicts the advisories/documents of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India ("MOHFW") as well as the World Health Organization ("WHO")… The WHO's factsheet further states that 'Alcohol has a deleterious effect on your immune system and will not stimulate immunity and virus resistance" and goes on to state that "Heavy use of alcohol increases the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), one of the most severe complications of COVID-19.' - Petition in the Supreme Court

Additionally, it is contended that alcohol consumption could increase the risk, frequency and severity of interpersonal violence being perpetrated, especially during a lockdown.

Thus, it is urged that there's no rational nexus between the permission to reopen liquor stores and the objectives behind the New Guidelines aimed at containing the prevalent health crisis.

"At this juncture there is no rational nexus between the re-opening of liquor vends/shops for direct contact sales and the overarching objective in the New Guidelines of containing the present public health crisis." 

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