Bombay High Court on Friday refused to direct the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to allow over-the-counter sale of liquor in Mumbai but asked the civic chief to look into the grievances of alcohol shop owners.
Maharashtra Wine Merchants Association has moved the high court seeking a direction to the civic body to permit retail liquor sale from shops in the city. It has challenged the BMC commissioner’s May 22 notification, prohibiting the over-the-counter sale of liquor in the city and allowing home delivery through online sale.
It was argued on behalf of the association that in other Covid-19 hotspots like cities of Pune and Nashik, where identical situation existed as regards the coronavirus pandemic, normal retail sale of liquor was being permitted and there was no reason why the same norms should not be applied in Mumbai.
The association’s counsel submitted that the system of an online sale or home delivery was fraught with difficulties and apart from being unsafe can have an adverse social impact, and urged the court to strike down the notification and issue necessary directions to the BMC to allow over-the-counter sale of liquor in Mumbai.
The bench of justice Nitin Jamdar and justice NR Borkar, however, refused to interfere with the civic chief’s decision.
The bench said the order does not permit over the counter sale of liquor and permits e-commerce platform to be utilised for delivery.
“This decision is in the nature of the policy. Such a decision entails evaluation of various competing factors,” said the bench.
It, however, placed the plea for over-the-counter sale before the municipal commissioner and directed the civic chief to take an appropriate decision on it.
“The situation may differ from place to place. The relevant factors can also undergo a change by passage of time,” the bench said in this regard.
The bench granted four weeks to the state government to reply to the association’s prayer for a refund of licence fee—proportionate to the loss caused due to the closure of liquor shops due to the nationwide lockdown in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.