Chennai, May 6: The Madras High Court on Wednesday refused to stay the state government’s decision to re-open liquor shops in Tamil Nadu from Thursday. 

It, however, ordered that only one bottle (750 ml) of any kind of liquor should be sold to a purchaser and that no customer should be permitted to purchase more than twice in a week with a minimum gap of three days, The Hindu reported.

Justices Vineet Kothari and Pushpa Sathyanarayana directed the government to encourage online booking of tokens (to be issued depending upon age group for collecting liquor from retail shops at different hours of the day) after making payments through digital mode and ordered that the online consumers alone could be allowed to purchase two bottles at a time.

They also directed Tasmac to discourage payment of cash for purchase of liquor since it leads to complaints of overpricing and use e-wallet payment system at the retail shops as far as possible. It was also made clear that sales bills should be issued to every customer with his/her name, address and Aadhaar number.

If any of the shops fails to issue bills, it shall be closed forthwith and not allowed to be open without further orders from the court, the judges said. They said that steps such as barricading, insisting upon masks, maintaining physical distance, avoiding crowd outside liquor shops and ban on consuming liquor in public places should also be followed scrupulously.

The interim orders were passed on a batch of public interest litigation petitions filed against the government’s move to reopen the liquor shops despite the lockdown to fight COVID-19. The judges pointed out that they had already dismissed a similar PIL petition early this week on the ground that it could not interfere with policy decisions taken by the government.

“We feel that the balance of revival of economic activity and management of COVID-19 related disease has to be maintained by the State authorities and it is not within the domain of the court to interfere with the same,” the Bench said and directed the High Court Registry to list the batch of cases once again on May 14 for further hearing.

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