Coronavirus lockdown | SC may hear Tasmac’s appeal on May 15


Coronavirus lockdown | SC may hear Tasmac’s appeal on May 15

A Tasmac shop in Chennai. File

Legal CorrespondentNEW DELHI, MAY 11, 2020 21:20 ISTUPDATED: MAY 11, 2020 22:52 IST

T.N. says indefinite closure of liquor shops would lead to revenue loss

In an unexpected turn of events on Monday, the Supreme Court suddenly deleted the list of cases, including Tamil Nadu government’s appeal against a Madras High Court order to close liquor shops in the State, scheduled for hearing before a Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan on May 12.

Sources said the Bench would not assemble for videoconferencing on Tuesday. The case may be taken up again on May 15.

A Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S.K. Kaul and B.R. Gavai is scheduled to hear the State’s contention that an indefinite closure of liquor shops would lead to ‘grave’ revenue and commercial losses.

Also read: Madras High Court orders closure of all Tasmac liquor shops in Tamil Nadu

The State government has accused the High Court of judicial overreach, highlighting that the ban order was passed the very same day the Supreme Court dismissed an identical call to close liquor shops across the country.

Tamil Nadu, represented by advocate Yogesh Kanna and State Additional Advocate General Balaji Srinivasan, said liquor retail was owned and operated by the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation Limited (Tasmac). The order, an open-ended ban, was on the basis of petitions by parties interested in keeping the State-run liquor shops closed.

On the issue of online liquor sales and home delivery, Tamil Nadu said the Supreme Court clarified on May 8 that a decision on online sales and home delivery of liquor would be entirely left to the discretion of the States.

Also read: Long queues, umbrellas used to reserve spots, as TASMAC outlets open across Tamil Nadu

“The Supreme Court order recognised that States have a broad margin of power to determine whether and how to effect sales of liquor in this lockdown period,” the Tamil Nadu government’s appeal said.

It said no other State, except Maharashtra where the virus figures were three to four times more than Tamil Nadu, sold liquor exclusively online. Online sales could at best supplement sales through physical outlets, it added.

Also read: On Day 1, chaos prevail at TASMAC shops in Chennai’s neighbouring districts

“E-payment and home delivery call for immense logistical coordination and supply chain management, which need time manpower, especially in the present COVID-18 situation,” the petition contended. Besides, it pointed out that the Tamil Nadu Liquor (License and Permit) Rules, 1981 did not provide for online sales. The State would also have to amend the Tamil Nadu Liquor Retail Vending (In Shops and Bars) Rules of 2003. The High Court could not dictate liquor sale policy to the government, it said.

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