Snapticle

Ban on Liquor

For Prelims: seventh schedule, Liquor ban, Legal age of drinking

For Mains: Administrative steps for liquor interventions, advantages, and disadvantages of liquor

Why in the News?

Many people in Bihar recently lost their lives in a hooch tragedy, and many more were left blind and critically ill.

Why was alcohol banned in India in the first place?

  • Indian attempts at prohibition have been influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's beliefs, who viewed alcohol consumption as more of a disease than a vice.
  • Even after India attained independence, Gandhians persisted in calling for a ban on alcohol.
  • In response to these initiatives, Article 47 was added to the Constitution.
  • Several Indian states have passed laws banning the consumption of alcohol.
  • To use Haryana as an example, the State attempted prohibition several times before being forced to give up because it was impossible to stop illegal distillation and bootlegging, resulting in many fatalities.
  • The prohibition in Bihar, put into effect in April 2016, was a success and produced some social benefits.
  • The policy is, however, increasingly being criticized after a number of fatalities caused by drinking illegal alcohol.
  • Five states—Bihar, Gujarat, Lakshadweep, Nagaland, and Mizoram—have total prohibition in place, and additional states have partial prohibition.

What do we need to know about the Legal age of drinking?

The legal drinking age varies from State to State. 

Age - Name of the State

18 years - Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Puducherry 

23 years - Kerala 

25 years - Maharashtra (light beer is allowed at the age of 21), Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu 

21 years - All the remaining states

Which Indian states have alcohol prohibitions?

The following list includes the states where alcohol is prohibited:

Mizoram: The state Assembly unanimously approved the 2019 Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition) Act. The Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Act, 2014, which had been in effect for four years, was replaced by the new law. 

Gujarat: The only Indian State with a death sentence for making and selling homemade alcohol that causes fatalities in Gujarat. The 2009 Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Act is the law's official name. Alcohol consumption and sales within the State have not entirely stopped as a result.

Bihar: The most talked-about alcohol ban is in Bihar. When Bihar became a dry state in 2015, the then-chief minister Nitish Kumar forbade the sale of alcohol throughout the entire State.

Nagaland: When the Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act (NLTP) forbade the sale and consumption of alcohol in 1989, Nagaland became a dry state. In the State where alcohol has been banned since 1989, concerns about bootleg (illegal) alcohol from Assam and growing financial constraints have risen to the top of the agenda.

Lakshadweep: The only Union Territory in India that forbids the sale and consumption of alcohol is Lakshadweep. A bar can be found on the inhabited island of Bangaram, which is the only exception.

What justifies some states' prohibition of alcohol but not others?

  • Even though the Constitution calls for alcohol prohibition, most states find it extremely challenging to enact such a law.
  • This is mainly because alcohol sales do not lend themselves to easy dismissal and have consistently provided a sizable portion of the state government's revenue.
  • In April 2020 (during the nationwide Covid lockdown), state liquor revenues in Maharashtra, for example, were Rs 11,000 crore as opposed to Rs 17,000 crore in March.

What regulations govern alcohol in India?

Article 21- Right to Consume Liquor:

The right to privacy was confirmed as a component of article 21 in the precedent-setting case K.S. Puttaswamy and Others v. Union of India & Ors. The argument that the Indian Constitution's protection of the right to privacy extends to one's ability to consume alcohol is backed by those who contend that a person's consumption of alcohol is a reflection of his or her personal preferences and is, therefore, a crucial aspect of their right to privacy. 

Article 19(1)(g)- Right to Trade Liquor :

Many agree that Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution's Part III of fundamental rights includes the right to trade in alcoholic beverages. The right to practice any profession or to engage in any occupation, trade, or business is guaranteed to all citizens under Article 19(1)(g). 

It is also crucial to keep in mind that if, as this article asserts, the right to trade in alcohol falls under the purview of fundamental rights, then the State's complete prohibition of the practice would be contrary to Article 19(6) of the Constitution, which only permits "reasonable restrictions" as opposed to a total ban.  

Article 47- Right to Liquor:

The Indian Constitution's Article 47 (DPSP) addresses the State's obligation to improve citizens' nutrition, living conditions, and general health. Since it has been established in this article that one of the main responsibilities of the State is to improve public health, the State should generally outlaw the consumption of intoxicating beverages. In order to fulfill its obligation under Article 47 of the Indian Constitution, the State attempts to combat alcohol's harm to health. Therefore, there is no general right to buy, sell, or consume alcohol.

The sale and consumption of alcohol have thus been the subject of an interesting debate, as can be inferred from all of these provisions. Currently, the sale of alcohol is prohibited in some states.

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