Alcohol can be sold online in Tamil Nadu, the Madras High Court said today, ordering the state government to shut down liquor shops because of huge crowds that challenged social distancing protocols and other precautions against coronavirus.
Hundreds of people in serpentine queues, which extended over a kilometre in many areas, were seen at liquor stores across the state on Thursday. Liquor worth Rs 170 crore was sold in a day.
Social media was abuzz with visuals showing consumers being sold more than the permitted number of liquor bottles. There were also tell-tale signs of no checking of Aadhaar cards, violating almost all conditions put forth by the court earlier.
The Madras High Court had issued guidelines for the sale of liquor from standalone shops, and ordered 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.
DMK chief MK Stalin and actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan had slammed the K Palaniswami government, saying the opening of liquor shops will lead to further spread of the virus.
Mr Haasan, whose MNM party was one of the two petitioners, 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".
Last week, Tamil Nadu saw a big rise in its coronavirus total. With over 6,000 coronavirus cases including 40 deaths, Tamil Nadu is one of the worst-hit states in the country. On Friday, the state reported three deaths and 600 cases in 24 hours.
Tamil Nadu earned Rs 31,000 crore from liquor sales in financial year 2018-19. As the revenue dried up because of weeks of economic inactivity following the lockdown, the state government was banking on allowing liquor sale.
TASMAC, the state government agency that sells liquor, does not have any system for home deliveries as of now.
Earlier today, the Supreme Court advised states to consider "non-direct sale, including online/home delivery" of liquor to ensure minimal crowds at alcohol shops across the country.