New Delhi: "Liquor is not an essential thing", the Supreme Court said on Thursday and dismissed an appeal by Maharashtra Wine Merchants Association (MWMA) against the Bombay High Court order refusing to direct the state to allow over-the-counter sale of liquor in Mumbai.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah said: "The High Court has already permitted the petitioner to represent the matter to the Municipal Corporation. We see no reason to entertain this special leave petition. The special leave petition is dismissed".
Advocate Charanjeet Chanderpal, appearing for the MWMA, said a representation was made to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) as directed by the high court but it has not responded as yet.
He urged the top court to fix a time frame on BMC or municipal commission for deciding the representation of the Association.
The counsel said that online sale of liquor has many problems and chances of sale spurious liquor are very high while over-the-counter sale of liquor would prevent such products being sold.
"Liquor is not an essential thing. We are not inclined to entertain this plea," the bench said.
On May 29, the high court had refused to quash the BMC's order prohibiting over-the-counter sale of liquor in the city, stating that it was the civic body's policy decision to do so amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
It had refused to quash a notification issued by the civic body on May 22, prohibiting over-the-counter sale of liquor and permitting the use of e-commerce platforms for home delivery of alcohol.
The MWMA in the high court had sought a direction to the state government to permit sale of liquor at wine shops in Mumbai, which is a COVID-19 red zone.
The petition had contended that in cities like Pune and Nashik, where the COVID-19 situation was similar to Mumbai, regular counter sale of retail liquor was being permitted.
The MWMA had contended that the system of online orders and home delivery of liquor was fraught with difficulties and could have an adverse social impact and was also not safe.
The high court, however, said it would be appropriate for the petition to be placed before the city municipal commissioner as a representation.
The municipal commissioner will be able to take an appropriate decision after considering all the factors, the court had said.
"This decision is in the nature of policy. Such a decision entails evaluation of various competing factors. The situation may differ from place to place. The relevant factors can also undergo a change with passage of time," the court had said.