Delhi HC flags security concerns over liquor home delivery, lets govts take final call
Home delivery of alcohol, distribution of which till now has largely been in the hands of the state, would also increase the risk of adulteration of alcohol, resulting in possible loss of life, the court said.Updated: May 13, 2020 04:36 IST
The Delhi high court on Tuesday expressed concern over a suggestion that alcohol be home-delivered through food delivery platforms, saying such a move would be “fraught with security and safety issues.” The court refused to pass an order on petitions seeking regulation of the sale of alcohol and left it to the Centre and the Delhi government to decide.
Home delivery of alcohol, distribution of which till now has largely been in the hands of the state, would also increase the risk of adulteration of alcohol, resulting in possible loss of life, the court said. The possibility of alcohol being snatched during transit to the homes of consumers cannot be ruled out, .said a bench of justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal.
The court was hearing a bunch of pleas that had sought regulation of the sale alcohol and home delivery to maintain social distancing and avoiding overcrowding at liquor stores in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. When liquor sales resumed n the capital earlier this month for the first time since the lockdown came into effect, long lines formed at liquor stores and buyers jostled each other, ignoring the social distancing norms put in place to prevent the spread of the disease.
The court asked the authorities to consider the suggestions like online sale of alcohol, discussed during the hearing of several petitions against the crowding outside liquor vends. It noted the submission of the Delhi government which submitted that even the E-coupon scheme of liquor selling had not been successful because the holders of these coupons needed to spend considerable time at liquor stores, which leads to crowding
“We need time to study the order and seek legal opinion on the way ahead,” a senior official in the Delhi government said, requesting anonymity.
Standing counsel of the Delhi government, Ramesh Singh, told the court that the rules framed under the Excise Acts in force now do not permit the online sale of liquor. He stated that all the vends could not be permitted to reopen because of restrictions already in force under the directions of the Centre.
The court also noted that the possibility of deployment of police personnel outside each liquor vend to maintain order had also been discussed, but the conclusion was that it was not a solution to the problem.
The bench said any delay on the part of the Centre and the Delhi government in coming up with a solution “can exacerbate the problem of crowding outside liquor shops” and would increase the probability of Covid-19 spreading.
“Moreover, it is not as if the problem is of a permanent nature, solution whereof can be devised at leisure. The problem is perhaps of a few days more in as much as once the patrons of alcohol are satisfied that there would be no further closure, the crowding outside liquor shops is likely to disappear,” the high court said in a nine-page order.
Its asked the authorities to take a decision at the earliest “so that more damage than has already been done is not caused and so that the decision taken serves the need of the hour”.
During the hearing, standing counsel Singh told the court that instructions had been issued by the Delhi government to liquor vends to ensure social distancing by having separate queues for those with E-tokens and those without.
The bench said the instructions had been issued “without regard to the location and position of the liquor vends”.
“It appears to us that considering the location and position of most of the liquor vends in the city, it is not possible to maintain social distancing as has been prescribed and the instructions stated to have been issued will not serve any purpose and will remain on paper only,” the judges observed.