On Wednesday, the Madras High Court refused to stay the State government’s decision to re-open liquor shops in the State, from Thursday. However, the court issued certain guidelines in the sale of liquor which includes – only one bottle (750 ml) of any kind of liquor to be sold to a purchaser and that no customer should be permitted to purchase more than twice in a week with a minimum gap of three days.
The bench comprising of Justices Vineet Kothari and Pushpa Sathyanarayana, while hearing a PIL filed by B Ramkumar Adityan who sought to prohibit liquor sale while the pandemic persists, asserted that since it was a matter of policy, “We are of the opinion that we cannot totally prohibit the re-opening of the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) shops for sale of Liquors, including Beer, Wine, etc. in the State.”
“The balance of revival of economic activity and management of COVID related disease has to be maintained by the State Authorities and it is not within the domain of the Court to interfere with the same,” added the court.
Subsequently, the court directed the government to encourage online booking of tokens (to be issued depending upon age group for collecting liquor from retail shops at different hours of the day) after making payments through digital mode and ordered that online consumers alone could be allowed to purchase two bottles at a time.
The additional directions issued by the Madras High Court Bench includes:
- Those paying through approved online modes may purchase two bottles a day as detailed above.
- Those without mobile/smart phones or online payment apps can purchase only one bottle a day.
- The customer cannot make purchase of liquor more than twice a week and with a minimum gap of three days.
- To avoid unnecessary malpractices of overcharging through cash payments and to encourage digital payment, the payment for liquor purchase should be made through approved E-payment applications like RuPay, Bhim, Google Pay, etc. which can be made available to all smartphone holders and easily assumed in shops.
- Cash payment is prohibited save for those who do not have mobile facilities to make an online payment. This was in view of a submission that there were over 7,000 MRP violations booked by the State in the last ten months.
- The Bill of sale should include the “name, address, and Aadhaar number” of the customer.
Further, the Court has also emphasized that the liquor sale should be in strict compliance with the precautionary measures including:
- measures for crowd management,
- social distancing,
- prohibition on more than 5 persons at a time in the shop,
- shop timings being limited to 10 am-5 pm,
- that shop personnel wear triple layer masks and sanitize their hands,
- there should be no bulk sales,
- that a token system has to be followed,
- that a public address system must be put in place etc.
“If any sale is found to be made in violation of this direction and such fact is brought to the notice of this court, that shop in question will be immediately closed and will not be allowed to be reopened, except by the specific orders of the Court,” stated the court.