New Delhi, May 08: The Madras High Court has ordered the Tamil Nadu government to close all liquor shops in the state, in the wake of the growing number of coronavirus cases. However, Tamil Nadu is expected to move the Supreme Court at the earliest against the lower court's direction.
The decision comes hours after the Supreme Court advised to consider indirect sale, home delivery of liquor to ensure that there are no crowds at the alcohol stores.
Noting that there were huge crowds before the shops and no social distancing was maintained, a bench of Justices Vineet Kothari and Pushpa Satyanarayana passed the order on a miscellaneous petition filed by advocate G Rajesh, besides a plaint from Kamal Haasan-led Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM).
The bench said there was total violation of its interim order issued on Wednesday, when it declined to stay a government order allowing resumption of sale of Liquor through the latter's outlets.
Besides the guidelines issued by the state government and the TASMAC, the sole retailer of liquor in Tamil Nadu, were also violated, it said.
However, the court allowed online sale of liquor and door delivery till the lockdown to check spread of coronavirus was over.
The court had earlier issued guidelines for the sale of liquor through neighbourhood shops. It had ordered a six-feet gap between those queuing up to buy liquor, capping the sale to two bottles per person. It had also asked the state government to check the Aadhaar cards of buyers.
This would ensure that social distancing norms are followed, the court also said.
We will not issue orders, but states should consider home delivery or indirect sale of liquor to maintain social distancing, the Bench comprising, Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B R Gavai said.
After liquor stores were allowed to open, huge crowds were witnessed outside the stores. Several shops had to be forcibly closed as social distancing norms had been flouted. In several places, the police also had to resort to lathi charge.
Opposition leaders DMK chief MK Stalin and actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan had slammed the K Palanisamy government, saying the opening of liquor shops will lead to further spread of the virus.
With over 6,000 coronavirus cases including 40 deaths, Tamil Nadu is the fourth worst-hit state in the country. On Friday, the state reported three deaths and 600 cases in 24 hours.