The Bombay High Court directed state authorities and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to grant a liquor store located in a mall – but with a separate entrance – permission to sell alcohol online through home delivery service, and considered it a standalone store.
The court observed that access to the shop was separate and independent of the entrance to the mall. “In matters such as the present case, the approach of the respondent authorities needs to be practical, rather than technical,” it said.
Ojus Marketing Management Pvt Ltd, which owns the store ‘World of Wines’ inside CR2 Mall at Nariman Point had filed a plea seeking permission for the sale of liquor as a standalone retail shop, and the issuance of a clarification that all liquor stores, including those inside malls, be allowed to commence home delivery. A division bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and S P Tavade on Friday heard the plea.
The petitioner, through advocates Hiren Kamod, Prem Khullar and Abhishek Adke, maintained that their store, though situated inside a mall, had a separate entrance, but was refused permission for home delivery by authorities.
Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal had allowed the online sale of liquor through home delivery in Mumbai from May 23 onwards for standalone stores. The service was to be allowed from 10 am to 6 pm. “Under no circumstances can over-the-counter sale of liquor be permitted.”
On June 2, the High Court had directed authorities to respond to a plea filed by a south Mumbai shop owner seeking clarification on the online sale of liquor to all shops, including petitioner’s shop situated inside mall.
Senior Counsel Anil Sakhare from BMC argued that it could not permit commercial activity for non-essential service stores inside malls as per guidelines, and therefore relaxation granted by the BMC to standalone liquor stores will not apply to the petitioner’s store. Moreover, additional government pleader Jyoti Chavan for the state, opposed the plea and submitted that the relaxation could not be given to the petitioner’s shop as it was inside a mall.
After hearing submissions and perusing photographs of the shop, the bench, led by Justice Kathawalla, said authorities should take a practical approach while granting permissions. “Economic impact or strain that has been caused…by the lockdown is common knowledge and the state had permitted businesses to operate while adhering to social distancing norms and other protective measures,” the court noted.
The bench further observed, “Petitioner’s shop does not fall in the containment zone. We are not impressed by the hyper-technical interpretation provided by authorities to show that it is inside a mall. The intent of the guidelines issued by the state in not allowing the operation of businesses situated in malls is to ensure that too many people do not gather in one place, where it will be difficult to follow norms of social distancing.”
Granting relief, the court directed authorities to give permission to the petitioner for online sale of liquor as a standalone retail store in accordance with the guidelines.
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