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The plea relies on news reports which state that as soon as the the new lockdown guidelines were announced, people were seen thronging alcohol shops to buy liquor.
A three judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan refused to interfere with the new COVID-19 guidelines issued by the Government permitting sale of liquor through direct contact during lockdown but observed that home delivery or indirect sales option should be considered.
Keeping in view strict nomenclature of social distancing in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, the bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and BR Gavai observed that instead of direct contact sales, home delivery or indirect sale could be implemented.
The plea filed by Guruswamy Natraj states that as soon as the new lockdown guidelines were announced, news reports from May 4 onwards showed how people were thronging alcohol shops to buy liquor after a shutdown of over one month in such sales.
"The health and safety of all persons who gather at and around the liquor vends/shops, the personnel of the liquor vends/shops, the police officials who have to be deployed and intervene, passers-by and the public at large is being endangered and jeopardised, increasing the scope for further transmission of Covid-19 amongst the population,” the plea states.
Advocate Sai Deepak arguing for the petitioner stated that social distancing norms were violated with such direct sales.
The Supreme Court bench, however, refused to interfere under Article 32 of the Indian constitution but asked if indirect options can be considered.
“We are not inclined to entertain this petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. The petition is dismissed. However, it shall be open for the concerned State Government to consider non-direct sale including on-line sale/home delivery of liquor to facilitate social distancing,” said the bench.
The plea filed by Advocate on record Anindita Mitra stated that the petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India had been filed in "public interest", seeking issuance of a writ, order or direction in order to declare the New Covid-19 Guidelines issued by Respondent Union of India, to the extent they permit the sale of alcoholic liquors for human consumption at liquor vends/shops through direct contact sales during the lockdown period, "as unconstitutional, null and void".
“The reopening of liquor vends/shops, which rely wholly on direct contact sales to the consuming public, is resulting and will result in unmanageable crowds, leading to the high risk of transmission and spread of Covid-19 due to difficulties in managing physical distancing during such sales, apart from serious issues of maintenance of law and order at such liquor vends/shops,” reads the petition.