New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday asked states to consider non-direct contact or online sales and home delivery of liquor during the lockdown period to prevent the spread of coronavirus on account of crowding at the shops.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B R Gavai, which took up the matter through video conferencing, disposed of the plea challenging the guidelines issued by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on May 1, allowing sales of liquor through direct contact sales during the lockdown period.
The bench directed that States may consider allowing non-direct contact sales or online sales or home delivery of liquor during these times, advocate Sai Deepak, appearing for petitioner Guruswamy Nataraj said after the hearing.
During the hearing, he argued that there are 70,000 liquor vends across the country and over five crore people have till now purchased liquor from these shops.
He said that due to social distancing norms not being followed at the liquor vends and shops, there has been rise in Covid-19 cases.
Deepak contended that the results, which have been achieved in over a month-long nationwide lockdown will be nullified as the coronavirus graph, which was earlier flattening, is now showing a sharp rise.
He sought issuance of fresh MHA guidelines or directions for prohibition of sale of liquor at vends and shops through direct contact during the lockdown period or till the National Disaster Management Authority announces India to be Covid-19 free.
To this, the bench said that discussion is already going on for allowing online sale of liquor or its home delivery.
Deepak said he only wanted that life of a common man should not be affected due to this direct sale from vends and MHA should issue clarificatory guidelines and states should abide by it.
The bench then directed the state to consider online sales or home delivery of liquor during the lockdown period and disposed of the matter.
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.