Madras High Court: A Division Bench of Dr Vineet Kothari and Pushpa Sathyanarayana, JJ., while addressing a petition laid down certain directions with regard to re-opening of liquor shops in the State and also stated that it cannot interfere with in the prohibition of re-opening of the same as prayed by the petitioner.
Present petition sought ban on the sale of liquor during lockdown period amid COVID-19 situation by challenging the Press Note 311 dated 04-05-2020.
Petitioners counsel sought for total prohibition of the sale of liquor on the State or at least deferment of opening of TASMAC shops up to 17.05.2020 or up to the period the Centre extends the lockdown.
According to the petitioners, re-opening of liquor shops would throw the norms of social distancing or physical distancing as is desired and mandated in these times of Coronavirus outbreak.
Advocate General submitted that the policy decision of the State Government to restart the sale of liquor through TASMAC shops, is a rational and economically viable decision and being a policy matter, it should not be interfered with by the Court.
Since the Central Government through their Notifications on 1st May 2020 have permitted the economic activity with some restrictions, which have been adopted and followed by the State Government in their orders, there is no justification to either prohibit the sale of liquor completely or defer the same even up to 17th May.
Further he added that, not only the social distancing will be maintained by physical distance of six feet between the customers by laying down the barricades at the TASMAC shops, but also by allotting different time slots for the people depending upon their age as well.
Advocate General further submitted that the health safety measures of wearing mask, maintaining physical distance of six feet etc. will also be ensured by the Police personnel employed for this purpose.
Bench passed the following interim order in the above view:
- Respondent-State and authorities concerned of TASMAC including sales personnel thereto to strictly adhere to the Guidelines and restrictions stipulated in the Notification in G.O.(Ms)No.223, Revenue and Disaster Management (DM II) Department, dated 05.05.2020 and further Guidelines issued by the Managing Director of TASMAC in Rc.No.R3/2093/2020 dated 05.05.2020.
Certain directions in regard to restrictions are also to be imposed:
- Not more than two bottles of 750 ML each of liquor (including Beer, Wine, etc.) of any one type and which is the usual bottle size will be sold to one customer at a time; same customer cannot make such purchase of liquor more than twice in a week, with a minimum gap of three days.
- TASMAC shop will immediately issue “Bill for such sale”, noting the name, address and Aadhar card number of the concerned person/buyer.
- No purchaser of liquor shall be allowed to consume the liquor at or nearby the shop in question or at any other public place.
- Payment for purchase of liquor should be made through approved E-payment applications like RuPay, Bhim, Google Pay, etc., as payment through these banking channels will not only keep a track and check on the sale of liquor, but is also likely to prevent those who do not intend to pay through known and approved sources, but purchase and consuming liquor free from all restriction.
- Those who book online and make online digital payments through banking channels are permitted to buy up to two bottles of one type of liquor in a day.
- State and TASMAC should consider immediately the method of sale of liquors online and upon online payment, Tokens can be issued online to the persons concerned with the time slots given on the same, when the customer can go and collect his liquor bottles.
- Exception to online booking for liquor can be made only for those persons who do not have the phone facility available to them.
- In case of liquor without sale bills will be done, then Court may direct permanent closure of such TASMAC Shop.
- With regard to prohibiting the reopening of liquor shops, Court cannot interfere as it is not it’s domain.
- State needs to constantly monitor the situation in terms of the above-sated restrictions.
Matter to be listed on 14-05-2020. [B. Ramkumar Adityan v. Chief Secy., Govt. of T.N., 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 977, decided on 06-05-2020]