States should consider Home Delivery of Liquor during Lockdown: Supreme Court

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Liquor shops in India reopened last week after remaining shut for over a month-and-a-half because of the coronavirus lockdown.

Manufacturing and sale of liquor are one of the major sources of their revenue for the states.

Officials painted chalk circles for people to maintain distance or follow the social distancing guidelines but there was such chaos outside the outlets that police has to take action for the crowd to ensure measures of social distancing.

Police have to use batons to beat people hustling to buy alcohol in 40 days as the government eased the world’s biggest coronavirus lockdown.

Despite the shutdown, hundreds of people continue to linger on streets in the hope that shops would reopen.

People stormed the liquor stores causing a lot of chaos and violated social distancing norms amid coronavirus induced lockdown.

Court’s Observation

The states should consider selling liquor through non-contact means such as home delivery during the coronavirus lockdown observed The Supreme Court on Friday.

The court observed this while hearing a petition of challenging opening of liquor shops by the state government given coronavirus pandemic.

Supreme Court said, declining to entertain a PIL seeking a ban on the direct sale of liquor (sale through shops) during the lockdown period.

“We will not pass any order but the states should consider indirect sale/home delivery of liquor to maintain social distancing norms and standards,” Justice Ashok Bhushan, heading a three-judge bench said. “Discussion on home delivery (of alcohol) is going on. What do you want us to do?” Justice Kaul added.

Advocate J Sai Deepak appearing for the petitioner argued social distancing was difficult to ensure at alcohol shops because of the limited number of shops were allowed to open and there was a huge crowd outside each outlet.

“I only want the life of a common man should not be affected because of liquor sales. MHA (Home Ministry) should issue a clarification to states on liquor sales,” Mr Sai argued.

Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and BR Gavai heard the case via video-conferencing as the Supreme Court continues to follow distancing norms enforced during the extended lockdown.

Long queues were seen extending up to a kilometre out of liquor stores as Centre announced relaxations in the third phase of the lockdown extended from May 4.

Liquor sale is a major part of economic activity in the third phase of the lockdown. It is expected that the states will earn enough revenue. One of the biggest sources of revenue for most states is liquor. In most states, the revenue share of liquor is between 25-40%.

West Bengal, Punjab and Chhattisgarh have already permitted home delivery of liquor to avoid huge gathering and hustle.

The Delhi government is still discussing the home delivery option, but it has launched a website for people so they can apply for e-tokens to buy alcohol. People willing to buy alcohol can log in to a web link to buy one of 50 tokens that will be issued per hour for each shop.

Age-based time slots for the sale of liquor has been introduced by the Tamil Nadu government which is only made available in some parts of the state.

Price of liquor has skyrocketed as many states hiked taxes on liquor as an initiative to boost revenues from alcohol sale.

The Delhi government put up a ‘special corona fee’, increasing alcohol prices by 70%. Andhra Pradesh also increased the price of liquor by 75% as an increase in excise duty. Even after hiking the prices on the sales as much as 70%, the demand hasn’t deterred.


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