The Tamil Nadu government, on Saturday, moved the Supreme Court challenging an order for closure of the state-run liquor outlets passed by the Madras High Court. The high court had passed the order on Friday on the ground that there was total violation of guidelines meant to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
The appeal has been filed on the grounds that the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) has a monopoly over liquor sales in the state and that the order passed by the Madras high court will lead to a â€˜complete and indefinite standstill of the sale of liquor in the State leading to grave losses to the Stateâ€™s revenue and commercial activity in the Stateâ€™.
The Madras High Courtâ€™s order noted that there were huge crowds and no social distancing was being maintained by tipplers. It, however, allowed doorstep delivery of booze through online mode. The appeal against the high court order has been filed by the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC), a government firm which sells alcoholic beverages in the state, seeking permission to sell liquor through vends also.
The appeal comes close after the apex court itself had taken note of crowding at liquor shops and asked states, on Friday, to consider non-direct contact or online sales and home delivery of liquor during the lockdown period to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The high court order restraining counter-sale of liquor was passed on a batch of petitions filed by advocate G Rajesh, Kamal Haasanâ€™s Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) among others. The HC had said there was total violation of its interim order issued on Wednesday, when it declined to stay a government order allowing resumption of sale of liquor through outlets. The bench had, in an interim order, directed the government to ensure strict implementation of all appropriate rules, as notified by the state, including maintenance of social distancing at liquor shops while allowing the resumption.
After a dry spell of 43 days due to the COVID-19 lockdown since late March, liquor sales resumed at TASMAC outlets in Tamil Nadu, except state capital Chennai, on Thursday. Tamil Nadu had decided to open retail liquor outlets, citing relaxation of lockdown norms by the central government. Tipplers in border districts of the state were also making a beeline to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka where liquor sales resumed on May 4.
Heavy rush was witnessed at most places with people standing in serpentine queues even as the move to allow sale of liquor came in for flak from opposition parties and others, who raised apprehensions that it would lead to further spread of the novel coronavirus, which as of Friday has affected over 6,000 people in the state.
When the matter came up on Friday, petitioner Rajesh submitted that there was a total violation of the guidelines framed as per a May 5 government order and also the norms stipulated by TASMAC and the court.
(With PTI Inputs)