Madras High Court: A Division bench of Dr Vineet Kothari and Pushpa Sathyanarayana, JJ., directed for closure of all TASMAC with the direction that the same shall not be opened till the continuation of lockdown.

On 6th May, 2020 Court had passed an order with certain restrictions and conditions to be followed with regard to reopening of TASMAC Shops.

First grievance that the Court noted was with regard to the issuance of bill for sale after noting down the name, address and Aadhar card number of the vendee, as has been mandated by this Court and if the same not followed, then immediately the Court will order for the closing of the shop.

For above stated grievance, Advocate General submitted that collection of the Aadhar card number for an ordinary commercial transaction amounts to violation of Right to Privacy and many consumers found it difficult to procure liquor.

TASMAC had not even produced a single counterfoil of the sale receipt made on 07.05.2020. None of the shops have computerized billing mechanism and such bills were issued only manually.

Above restriction was imposed only to avoid repeated purchase of liquor by any individual buyer in a day and week.

Next objection was with regard to digital payment facility

It has been argued that for creation of the digital payment facility certain devices and software are required to be installed in all the retail vending shops throughout the State. The same also attracts monthly rental charges and Merchant Discount Rates (MDR Charges).

Thus, in view of the above, the said condition has also been asked to relax.

It is specifically pointed out as per Section 3(1) of the Tamil Nadu Transparency in Tenders Act, 1998, “no procurement shall be made by the procuring entity except by tender”. Hence, the TASMAC is unable to provide the said facility immediately.

It was further noted that, TASMAC Retail shops were opened on 07.05.2020, whereupon, all those instructions issued by the MD, TASMAC as well as by this Court have been thrown into air.

Before opening of TASMAC shops, conditions imposed were flouted and breached. Thus, TASMAC has approached the Court for relaxation of some conditions.

“…what worries this Court is this mad rush for the liquor, where thousands of people without following any of the norms prescribed by the State, TASMAC authorities or by this Court, would only lead to witnessing the form of surge of new clusters.”

Despite the police personnel having been deployed, the State machinery could not control the crowding tipplers even on day one.

With regard to e-wallet facility

Once this facility of e-wallet is extended to other districts and is made mandatory only to go through the same Service Providers, the liquor lovers will obviously switch over to the said mode.

Court stated that for the above:

It is open to the TASMAC to choose anyone of the Service Providers to meet the situation to supply the liquor to the buyers online.

If there is no such online system in place, it is for the State and the TASMAC to make all arrangements before they decided to reopen the retail outset shops.

Tamil Nadu Liquor (License and Permit) Rules, 1981 does not provide for online sales.

State of Tamil Nadu also has to make appropriate amendments to the T.N. Liquor (License and Permit) Rules, 1981, to have the technology enabled home delivery to promote responsible consumption of alchohol. It is imperative that the Government of Tamil Nadu should look at option of online sale and home delivery.

It has been stated that before deciding to reopen the retail outlets, the State and the TASMAC should have made arrangements for the online sales, considering the guidelines and restrictions imposed on them for maintaining social distancing.

Thus, in view of the above, Court modified the Order dated 6th May, 2020 and directed for the closure of TASMAC shops that were opened on 07-05-2020 and 08-05-2020 with immediate effect.

No shops shall be kept open till the lockdown imposed by the Central/State Government is lifted/modified in accordance with law.

Though bench also stated that it is open to the State and TASMAC to resort to only home delivery of liquor by indirect sale during lockdown period by putting the required system in place.

Other conditions and restrictions in Government Notification dated 05.05.2020 and Court order dated 06.05.2020 shall continue to be operative in accordance with this order and this order is in addition and modification of the previous order dated 06.05.2020 in W.P.No.7578 of 2020, to the extent indicated above.

Matter to be listed on 14-05-2020. [MD, Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation Ltd. v. B. Ramkumar Adityan, WMP No 8928 of 2020 in WP No 7578 of 2020, decided on 08-05-2020]

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