The Delhi High Court in the case of Aadhar Gaur v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi (GNCTD) and Ors. accepted the order passed by the Supreme Court on May 11, 2020. The order allowed the states to make the decision regarding the sale of liquor amidst COVID-19.
The Public Interest Litigation was filed by a law student who is 21 years of age. He requested the High Court to quash the notification dated May 3, 2020. The notification is of the Government of NCT of Delhi in regard to the extent of permitting the sale of liquor in Delhi.
Arguments of the Petitioner
The counsel for the petitioner has stated that he is aware of the order passed by the Supreme Court dated May 11, 2020, filed by way of PIL. He is also aware that it claimed the same relief as claimed by the petitioner. The petitioner, however, has claimed that he has the following additional contentions to make. These were not considered in the hearing of the aforesaid petitions:
- Sale of liquor in this prevalent time of COVID-19 is injurious to the society in general;
- The reason which prevailed in the order dated May 11, 2020, was that taxation on the sale of liquor is an important component of the revenue of GNCTD. However, in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) of last year, it was reported that GNCTD has a revenue surplus. Therefore, GNCTD does not require the revenue from the sale of liquor and on which ground the relief was denied in the other writ petitions;
- The consumption of liquor in heavy amount reduces the immunity of the consumer thereof, making him more likely to catch infectious diseases; report of World Health Organisation (WHO) to the said effect is waived during the hearing;
- Consumption of liquor is also generally done in groups/gatherings and which would again be in breach of Social Distancing norms and would increase the risk of transmission of COVID- 19; and,
- The consumption of liquor is even otherwise injurious to health and affects the social behaviour of a person.
Arguments of the Respondent
The learned counsel on behalf of the Union of India has reiterated that a petition claiming the same relief was dismissed by the Supreme Court. Thus, petitions for the same are not maintainable before this Court.
The counsel representing GNCTD has in addition to what has already been contended, referred to the Supreme Court’s decision in Khoday Distilleries Ltd. v. The State of Karnataka, (1995) 1 SCC 574. In the case referred by the respondent, the Supreme Court has authoritatively held that though there is no fundamental right to sale or consumption of liquor the same can be controlled by the state. The learned counsel also stated that this is a matter of public policy and it is for the state to take a decision thereon.
The Court in furtherance of this petition enquired from the respondents, whether in pursuance to the order dated May 11, 2020, any decision with respect to the online sales or with respect to home delivery of alcohol has been taken. The counsel for the State Government assured that the decision by the GNCTD would definitely be taken on or before May 15, 2020.
The Court also inquired whether not in pursuance to the order of the Supreme Court at least one state has commenced the online sale of liquor to prevent crowding outside the liquor vends. The learned counsel for the Union of India stated that several states have commenced the online sale of alcohol.
The Decision of the Court
The Court after hearing the submissions from both the side observed that they do not find any case made out to take a different view than that taken in the order dated May 11, 2020. The bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal dismissed the petition. But directed the State Government to make a decision as assured before or on May 15, 2020.
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