SC maintains Madras HC order restricting the direct sale of liquor

NEW DELHI: Liquor will flow unrestrictedly through sales in Tamil Nadu as the Supreme Court on Friday suspended an order that had sales limited to two 750 ml liquor bottles per person twice a week and only through the online payment during the pandemic.

The Madras Supreme Court last week imposed restrictions on the direct sale of liquor on sales authorized by () Ltd, which challenged it before the SC. Presenting for the appellant, the lead attorney said the liquor sale was conducted according to guidelines issued by the Union government.

He said that whenever there was a violation of the social distancing rule by clients, authorities had deployed the police force to control the crowd and enforce the rule. Whenever social distancing could not be enforced in a particular location, liquor stores that were temporarily closed prevailed in bad order, he argued.

Rohatgi said the address for the online sale of liquor was fraught with danger. People transporting liquor for home delivery can be harassed and there is also the possibility that some of them may adulterate the liquor, which could cause a bigger problem, he said.

The state corporation also argued that HC's address to sellers to maintain Aadhaar's name, address, and number of buyers, which restricted sales to two bottles per week, three days apart from purchases, was against of the right to privacy of an individual. Buying and drinking alcohol is a personal choice, and keeping Aadhaar's number, name and address will lead to the buyer's profile and possible exploitation of the person, the appellant said through an advocate.

When appearing before the PIL petitioner before the HC, the defender PV Yogeswaran defended the HC order saying that it was based on protecting public health during a pandemic in which social distancing was the only shield against the spread of Covid-19 disease. .

However, a bank of judges L N Rao, S K Kaul and B R Gavai maintained the order HC. Rohatgi also noted that the SC on May 8 had dismissed a PIL seeking online liquor sales. The SC, while dismissing the PIL, had said: It will be open to interested state governments to consider non-direct sales, including online sales/home delivery of liquor to facilitate the social distancing rule.