Stores deliver alcohol to nearby areas without the notice of State Excise Department
Despite a high court order and the excise department’s ban on home delivery of alcohol in Karnataka, liquor shop owners have found loopholes to continue it.
The Observer contacted a few liquor shops in Kalyan Nagar, HSR Layout, BTM Layout, Panduranga Nagar and Hebbal whose numbers are available online. The manager of a liquor shop in HSR Layout said: “We do home delivery of alcohol. But we do it only in HSR Layout.” He disconnected the call when askedif they have enabled a provision under the Karnataka Excise Act for home delivery.
A shopkeeper in Panduranga Nagar said: “We deliver alcohol up to 4-5 km.”
The owner of a liquor store in BTM Layout asked The Observer where alcohol had to be delivered. He said they would not deliver anywhere outside BTM Layout.
“We introduced a trial run of online sales and home delivery of alcohol, thinking it would reduce drunk and drive cases and illegal sales. We permitted HipBar to do online sale and home delivery. But it turned out that the underage people were misusing the provision, causing NGOs and activists to turn against us. We even fixed a limit to the alcohol that could be carried, but the liquor shop owners took advantage of it. Since the trial didn’t go well, we totally banned it. If we receive complaint from anyone regarding this, we will take immediate action against it,” said an official from the excise department.
“Currently, no hotel, bar, liquor shop and online platform has enabled provision under the Karnataka Excise Act to do home delivery or online sale of alcohol.”
As per Karnataka Excise Act, 1965, the state government may, by notification, prohibit the transport of intoxicants or any kind of intoxicants from any local area into any other local area.
The high court order of September 2019 declared that the Karnataka Excise Act does not permit online sale or home delivery of liquor either for oneself or as an agent. The judgement was delivered by Justice S. Sujatha who dismissed a petition filed by HipBar Pvt. Ltd, an RBI-approved mobile wallet exclusively meant for transacting adult beverages.
The state government had on August 1, 2017, has granted a letter of authority (LoA) to HipBar permitting it to do online order processing and delivery of Indian and foreign liquor including beer, wine and low-alcohol beverages. The LoA was withdrawn on November 3, 2018.
HipBar filed a petition in the high court questioning the withdrawal. The court said the state government has no authority to issue an LoA under provision of the Excise Act. After realizing the outcome, the state withdrew it.
Akshay Heblikar, director of Eco-Watch, an NGO, said: “The court banned home delivery because anyone could order it. There is nothing to prove the age of the person who is ordering it. But when it comes to going to a shop and buying, the shop keepers can at least identify the age approximately.”
Lakshman K.A., manager of well-known liquor shop on M.G. Road, said: “Illegal home delivery of alcohol will spoil the market. I’m totally against those who do home delivery. Online purchase of alcohol won’t let the customers choose from a good range of products. Maybe underage people can easily order it in that way which is against the law. I agree with the court’s order. It will be good if the excise department finds illegal liquor shop owners and takes action against them.”
Dunzo, a delivery company, stopped liquor delivery in September 2018. HipBar stopped it in November the same year.
Online sales and home delivery of alcohol were banned as the sellers were unable to track the age of the people ordering them. The apps had age-verification systems that could easily be forged.
Sharanya S, a college student, said: “The high court order has both pros and cons. The positive side is that no one can get alcohol sitting at home. Home delivery of alcohol enables even a 10-year-old child to order it. So banning will reduce the number of underage drinkers. The negative aspect is that without home delivery the number of drink and drive cases will rise. To make matters worse, people will start doing home delivery without legal permission.”
Prajna C R, a social drinker, said: “I take alcohol, but only when I hang out with my friends or family. I have never ordered for home delivery. It is not a good thing to drink at home as it will become a routine. The high court order is good.”