A few hours after the Ministry of Home Affairs announced an important decision pertaining to e-commerce, it issued a clarification in this regard. The confusion arose when the MHA excluded the sub-clause- "E-commerce companies. Vehicles used by e-commerce operators will be allowed to ply with necessary permissions" from the revised consolidated guidelines for the nationwide lockdown. While the Ministry wrote on Twitter that the supply of non-essential goods through e-commerce was not allowed, there was no clarity in the official order as to whether essential goods will be permitted.
Writing to the Chief Secretaries of all states, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla specified that e-commerce companies can continue to operate for the supply of essential goods. He highlighted that this was allowed even in the initial 21-day lockdown phase. Thereafter, he urged the state governments to convey this to the field agencies so that the smooth movement of the supply chain of essential goods can be ensured. Bhalla also asked the local administration to suitably modify their lockdown guidelines.
#CoronaUpdatesIndia:— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) April 19, 2020
While the supply of non-essential goods through e-commerce remains prohibited, the supply of essential goods through e-commerce shall be allowed.
State/UT governments have been directed to sensitize field agencies regarding the same.#Lockdown2 pic.twitter.com/g5SX95hQr9
The Centre had already allowed the e-commerce companies to supply essential good such as food, pharmaceutical items and medical equipment. However, as the new lockdown guidelines did not make a distinction between essential and non-essential items, there was speculation that the e-commerce companies might be permitted to sell commodities such as mobile phones, refrigerators etc. This had provoked angry reactions from organizations such as the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).
Currently, there are 15,712 confirmed novel coronavirus cases in India out of which 2,231 persons have recovered while 507 casualties have been reported. Addressing a press briefing earlier in the day, Lav Aggarwal- the Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health stated that 1,334 new COVID-19 cases and 27 deaths had been reported in the last 24 hours. According to the ICMR, a total of 3,86,791 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted so far.