Essential stores that are permitted to remain open during coronavirus lockdowns are not allowed to sell nonessential products, the High Court of Justice ruled Tuesday.
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by several businesses that were forced to shut down because they were deemed nonessential, including toy stores and clothing shops.
Under the current regulations, essential stores include food, opticians, pharmacies and hygiene supplies, household maintenance, electrical appliances, laundromats, communication appliances and communication appliance repair services.
The petitioners argued that allowing these facilities to provide nonessential products while stores centered around their sale had to remain close represented a violation of equality, unjustified and without a fitting goal.
According to government guidelines, as long as a business can demonstrate it provides essential products and is authorized to operate, it can also offer other products.
The suit was filed during the second lockdown.
While the issue might seem to have limited relevance since the current set of restrictions is expected to be lifted soon, it was still important to make a decision, especially considering the uncertainty about future restrictive policies, the court said.
“This is a historic achievement,” said Roy Cohen, president of LAHAV, the Israel Chamber of Independent Organizations and Businesses, which joined the lawsuit. “The fact that the Supreme Court accepted all the claims by closed businesses, which for 10 months have been trampled on and seen their market taken away from them, sends an important message to the Knesset.”
“It is no longer acceptable that the big stores become bigger, while the small ones are left to their own devices and pile up debts,” he said. “We will require the Israel Police to fully enforce the ban on the sale of nonessential products.”
The petitioners’ lawyers, Gideon Fisher and Dr. Matan Guttman, said: “We are pleased that justice has been done, not only for our clients but also for the tens of thousands of families who are trying to survive through the damage done to their businesses.”
The court gave the Health Ministry one week to amend the relevant regulations.