Tamil Nadu moved the Supreme Court this afternoon against a Madras High Court order directing the southern state to close all liquor stores because of massive crowds that make social distancing during the coronavirus lockdown a challenge.
The High Court order on Friday allowed only online sale of alcohol in the state. The top court is likely to hear the case on Monday as Tamil Nadu has sought an urgent stay on the order.
This comes a day after the Supreme Court advised states across the country to consider "non-direct sale, including online/home delivery" of liquor to ensure minimal crowds at the liquor outlets. "We will not pass any order but states should consider online/home delivery or indirect sale of liquor to maintain social distancing," the three-judge bench of the top court said in response to a petition.
Liquor shops, which were shut since March 25 due to nationwide lockdown, re-opened in the Tamil Nadu on Thursday after more than 40 days. Hundreds of people in serpentine queues, which extended over a kilometre, were seen in many areas. Alcohol worth Rs 170 crore was sold in a day.
Earlier this week, the Madras High Court had refused to stay the state's decision to resume the sale of alcohol and issued several guidelines for standalone shops, including a a six-feet gap between buyers. It also capped the amount of liquor a person can buy. Failure to comply with the guidelines would lead to closure of shops, the court had said on Wednesday.
On Friday, as the high court heard the matter again, it said that there were huge crowds before the shops and no social distancing was maintained. Alcohol can be only sold online, the court ordered.
Actor-politician Kamal Haasan, whose Makkal Needhi Maiam or MNM was one of the two petitioners, welcomed the ruling and tweeted: "This is not a victory for MNM alone. The whole of Tamil Nadu ought to celebrate, saying our thoughts have won. This is a victory of the voice of Tamil mothers".