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Key Takeaways

  • Non-essential goods delivery is prohibited during the Maharashtra lockdown.
  • The Bombay high court (HC) has ordered the state government to take immediate action against errant e-commerce online sites that deliver non-essential goods through violation of the Break the Chain norms.
  • The HC also wanted to know what kind of relief the state and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) planned to give retailers, similar to what hawkers have received in terms of licence and other fees waivers.
  • The state and BMC have been given three weeks to file affidavits, and the petition will be heard on June 21.
  • Retail shop owners selling non-essential items had suffered heavy losses, financial instability, and mass unemployment as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown, according to a petition filed by the Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association. As a result, the retailers requested a waiver of property tax, renewal fees, and licence fees for the entire period of the lockdown, which began in March of last year.

Petitioner Contended

  • The petition was heard by a Division Bench of Justices Ramesh Dhanuka and Madhav Jamdar. It was asserted in the petition that brick-and-mortar shop keepers were losing money as a result of the restrictions imposed during the state's lockdown, while ecommerce companies were breaking the government's standard operating procedure.
  • Although retailers supported the government's announced lockdown, there has been no mutually beneficial subsidy for the closure of trade for the over 13 lakh retailers who hired approximately 45 lakh people. The federation also asserted that it had made several requests for tax exemptions to various authorities, including the BMC, but had received no response and thus turned to the HC.
  • While subsidies were given to licenced hawkers and others during the pandemic crisis, no package was declared for retail traders, according to the federation's lawyer Jamshed Mistry.

Court’s Order

  • If errant e-commerce companies were found to be violating guidelines, the court ordered the state government to take immediate action against them.
  • In addition, the state was asked to file an affidavit in response to the petition within two weeks, outlining the incentives provided to hawkers and why the same cannot be implemented to retail traders.
  • The bench also instructed BMC to make a decision on the federation's representation and document an affidavit in response within two weeks outlining steps taken by it regarding waiver of licence fees and other reliefs sought in the petition, and set the next hearing date for June 21.

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