The Supreme Court on Friday advised states to consider 'indirect sale or home delivery' of liquor to ensure enforcement of social distancing amid the Coronavirus pandemic. This comes after liquor shops have been crowded with long queues since the Ministry of Home Affairs permitted their re-opening after requests from several states. A three-bench judge comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and BR Gavai refused to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking a ban on the direct sale of liquor during the lockdown.
While the apex court heard arguments via video conferencing, it observed that the bench will not pass any order but states shall consider home delivery or indirect sale to maintain social distancing. Justice Kaul added, "Discussion on home delivery (of alcohol) is going on. What do you want us to do?"
Appearing for the petitioner, lawyer J Sai Deepak argued social distancing was difficult to ensure at alcohol shops because of the limited number allowed to re-open and the massive crowds outside each. He urged that the MHA should issue a clarification to states on liquor sale.
On May 1, the MHA has issued fresh guidelines while announcing a "limited" lockdown which includes suspension of air, train and inter-state road travel for two more weeks from May 4 across the country, but some activities was allowed after classifications of districts into 'Red', 'Orange' and 'Green' zones based on COVID-19 risk profiling.
According to the health ministry, there are 130 'Red' zones in the country with maximum of 19 in Uttar Pradesh, followed by 14 in Maharashtra in the country. The number of 'Orange' Zone is 284 and 'Green' is 319. All the districts of the national capital have been put under 'Red' zone.
As per the new guidelines, sale of liquor, paan, tobacco to be allowed after ensuring minimum six-feet social distancing; not over 5 persons at one time at shop. These shops should not be located in markets and malls in urban areas.However, consumption of liquor, paan, gutka, tobacco etc., is not allowed in public places during lockdown.
(With agency inputs)