On May 11, The Delhi High Court rejected several clubbed petitions. These petitions were concerned with the overcrowding at liquor shops during the pandemic. The High Court refused to interfere and pass any order. It directed the Centre and State Government to make a suitable policy.
Reliefs sought by the Petitioners
- Give directions to the Delhi Government to immediately stop the sale of liquor in the Capital.
- To direct the respondents to follow social distancing if the sale is allowed.
- To mandate the Delhi Government to allow online sale/home delivery of liquor.
One of these petitions asked for a complete ban on the sale of liquor. Considering the huge share in state revenue from the sale of alcohol, others did not ask for a complete ban. The petitioners agreed that Liquor sales formed a bulk of revenue during the pandemic.
The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the only solution to overcrowding was the online sale of liquor. He asked the Court to direct the Government to make appropriate rules. He compared the sale of alcohol to the sale of food by home delivery.
Suggestions by the Petitioners:
- Documents like proof of Identity and age should be used for delivery. This record can be maintained by the government or agents.
- Packaging of alcohol to display a warning, legal drinking age, and help lines for domestic violence.
- Limit on the quantity of alcohol deliverable.
- Only licensed vendors to be allowed delivery to prevent adulteration.
- To allow licensed hotels and restaurants to also supply liquor by home delivery.
- Fixed timing for sale and distribution of liquor.
- Timing to be framed keeping in mind the safety of delivery persons and possible domestic violence.
- Record of all persons in contact with the delivery boy to be kept. This can help in tracing if needed.
The counsel for the Union of India contended that another writ petition Guruswamy Nataraj Vs. Union of India sought the same reliefs. Here, it was denied in the Supreme Court, and had left the decision to State Government. Furthermore, he argued that this petition was not maintainable as it was based on the same grounds.
The counsel submitted that there were various restrictions for the sale of liquor in Delhi. Furthermore, many licensed vendors both government and private were not open. Moreover, he read out various instructions issued to liquor vendors to ensure social distancing, if open. In these instructions, it divides people with and without e-tokens into separate lines. The counsel submitted that the rules currently framed under the Excise Act were in force. Hence, these rules do not permit the online sale of liquor.
The two-judge bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai and Justice Sangita Dhingra refused to issue the directions. The Bench said that the Courts cannot decide matters relating to the Executive. Furthermore, the Court praised the Government’s decision.
The Court disposed of all the petitions without granting relief. However, it asked the State and the Centre Government to form policies at the earliest. Additionally, it asked the Government to keep in mind all suggestions to avoid further damage.
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