In a setback for liquor shops, the Bombay High Court, on Friday, refused to quash or set aside the notifications issued by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Maharashtra government, which allowed online sale of liquor. The HC, while refusing to grant any relief to the liquor merchants, has asked the civic chief to look into their grievances.
A bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Nitin Borkar was hearing a petition filed by the Maharashtra Wine Merchants Association. The plea challenged the notifications issued on May 5, May 12 and, subsequently, on May 22, by the civic body.
The notifications allowed online sale of liquor and also laid down the procedure for ordering it.
The association, through their counsel Charanjeet Chanderpal, argued that the authorities have allowed offline or counter sale of liquor in Pune and Nashik cities, which are also a hotspot of COVID-19 just like Mumbai and its suburbs. "In cities like Pune and Nashik, the authorities have permitted normal sale of retail liquor despite these cities facing an identical situation. There is no reason why the same norms are not applied in Mumbai," Chanderpal argued.
The merchants' association further argued that the online sale of liquor can pose serious threats for the society. "The system of online/ home delivery of liquor is fraught with various difficulties and can have adverse social impact, and it is also not safe. Thus, the notifications deserve to be set aside," Chanderpal urged.
Having heard the contention, Justice Jamdar noted that the notifications are nothing but a policy decision of the BMC.
"The impugned notification, dated May 22, issued by BMC does not permit over the counter sale of liquor. It only permits e-commerce platforms to be utilised for delivery," the bench noted.
"This decision is in the nature of policy and such a decision entails evaluation of various competing factors. Situation may differ from place to place. The relevant factors can also undergo a change by the passage of time," the bench observed.
The judges, accordingly, deemed it appropriate to forward the petition to BMC chief Iqbal Chahal and ordered him to deal with the grievances of the association and pass an order at the earliest.