Oct 14: In what could be really a games changer the progressive government of Maharashtra is apparently planning to introduce a policy that will allow liquor being delivered home, making the online sales a distinct possibility at least in Maharashtra, especially since home delivery by vendors has been ‘de riguer’ for years, writes Subhash Arora who feels the petitioner against the move has crossed the line interpreting Article 47 of our Constitution
Minister for state for excise Chandrashekhar Bawankule told TOI yesterday that this would be a game changer for the liquor industry. Maharashtra is likely to be the first state in the country to bring in such a policy. "The main objective is to reduce growing cases of drunken driving due to which there have been many accidents and resulted in great loss of lives," the minister said.
What is more significant is the Statement by the minister that ‘alcohol would be delivered home through platforms similar to national and international e-commerce websites-just like citizens are getting groceries and vegetables at home," Bawankule said.
If one can read between the lines, this step by the Maharashtra government would imply that online sales could be a distinct possibility in the near future and the importers, distributors and eCommerce sites could be sharpening their tools to start the online business.
The reasons given for the change- reducing road accidents from drunken driving are rather lame-but allowing the delivery is a business practice that is as rudimentary as delivery of your vegetables, pizzas and milk, especially as women, the major retail buyers would find it easier to get wine, beer and liquor delivered.
Appreciating the government's move, noted high court lawyer Shreerang Bhandarkar said it would "provide respite to busy individuals and save precious time". He added: "Apart from reducing instances of drunken driving, it would also generate employment for youths who deliver the product. Moreover, it would offer unlimited choice to consumers and ensure that quality is maintained."
To ensure that people buying liquor online meet the required age criteria, sellers must collect the complete details of customers, including the Aadhaar numbers, through which their identity can be verified. The liquor bottles would be geo-tagged to keep track of their manufacture and sale. "The tagging would be done on the cap of the bottle. We can track the bottle all the way from the manufacturer to the consumer. It would help curb sale of spurious liquor and also smuggling," Bawankule said.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) suggested that in 2015 about 1.5% of the total 464,000 road accidents were caused by drunken driving or 'drug driving', resulting in injuries to 6,295 people. The offence, the report said, resulted in 2,988 deaths, at more than 8 deaths a day.
Activist Paromita Goswami, who has been leading the fight for total prohibition, isn't pleased though. Incorrectly calling the move "unconstitutional", something that would have several "adverse effects", she said, "Article 47 of the Constitution of India clearly prohibits sale of intoxicating drinks that may lead to injury or death. The government should rethink the move that may increase liquor addiction in the state."
Just to correct the over-zealous lady, Article 47 of the Indian Constitution directs States, in particular, to endeavour to bring about prohibition of intoxicating drinks and drugs which are injurious to health. It is a matter of record that when Maharashtra and Gujarat were divided into two States, the Bombay Prohibition Act 1949 was applicable but in Gujarat.
So what has made the government change their strict stand on home delivery when they had sealed over 50 shops barely 6 weeks ago? It is interesting that many of these shops were ordered to be de-sealed by the Mumbai High Court yesterday with strong strictures against the Excise Commissioner. Did that judgment have anything to do with this sudden change of heart?
Your guess might be better than mine!!
For the Article on de-sealing please visit:
Bombay High Court orders de-sealing Wine Shops, passes Strictures against Excise
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