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Alcohol laws in India

By Bhavneet Vohra July 18, 2016

Alcohol laws in India are a strange piece of legislation. Apart from every other legislation, the laws governing liquor consumption in India lacks uniformity. We all know that alcohol is the most commonly used intoxicant among the people of not only our country but throughout the world. 

In India the legal drinking age and laws governing alcohol which regulate the sale and consumption of alcohol vary significantly from state to state. They vary because the subject of alcohol is included in the State list which comes under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India. In India, the sale of alcohol usually takes place at liquor stores, restaurants, hotels, bars, pubs, clubs and discos.

The alcohol laws not only prescribe the drinking age but also list down the places where alcohol can be sold and this also varies from state to state. For example, in some states, liquor may be sold at groceries, departmental stores, banquet halls and/or farm houses. Some tourist areas have special laws allowing the sale of alcohol on beaches and houseboats.

Different criteria for ages in different states 

In India, there is a different legal age for every state. This variation in law have resulted in difference between consumption age and the purchasing age. Consumption age is the age when an individual can legally consume the alcohol. Purchasing age is the age at which an individual can be sold alcohol by the license holder. This minute difference is generally overlooked by the authorities.

These differences have resulted in lot of confusion and has made the enforcement of respective laws futile. For example if a person in Maharashtra is buying alcohol than he needs to be a major (i.e. above 18); as per Bombay Prohibition Act1949-SECTION 18; however he cannot consume the alcohol, because the consumption age in Maharashtra is 25 (as per Bombay Prohibition Act,1949- Part VI-A Rule 70D). Such a law becomes difficult to enforce as there are very limited ways to ensure that any person who is under 25 do not consume the alcohol. Even if he is caught with alcohol he cannot be punished if he is above 18.

To make the situation more complicated, some states like Maharashtra have imposed license requirement. So if an individual wants to buy alcohol he first need to get a license from the government. He needs to show that license to the vendor before making a purchase. Such a process has further increased the possibility of harassment by the authorities.

In Karnataka as per Karnataka Excise Department, 1967 legal age of drinking is 21 however as per The Karnataka Excise Act, 1965 Section 36 legal age to purchase alcohol is 18 years. In many states the act were silent about either about the valid drinking age or purchasing age. In such a situation, for the purpose of convenience it is assumed that the both the age is same.

Following is the table which gives the details of the laws, regarding alcohol consumption of various states of India-

State/UT

Drinking Age

Legislation/ Acts

Andaman and Nicobar Islands

18

Andaman and Nicobar Islands Excise Regulation, 2012

Section 24 

Excise Policy

 RULE 14

Andhra Pradesh

21

The Andhra Pradesh (Regulation of Wholesale Trade and Distribution and Retail Trade in Indian Liquor, Foreign Liquor, Wine and Beer) Act, 1993

Andhra Pradesh  Excise Act 1968- SECTION 36

Arunachal Pradesh

21

The Arunachal Pradesh Excise Act, 1993 

Section 42

Assam

21

Rule 241 and 5.10 of the Assam Excise Rule 1945

Bihar

Illegal

Bihar Excise (Amendment) Bill 2016 

Section 19(4)

Chandigarh

25

Punjab Excise Act,1914- SECTION 29 

Chhattisgarh

21

The Chhattisgarh Excise Act, 1915

Section 23 

Dadra and Nagar Haveli

21

THE DADRA AND NAGAR HAVELI EXCISE REGULATION, 2012

Section 24 

Daman and Diu

21

The Goa, Daman and Diu Excise Duty Act & Rules 1964

Section 19

Delhi

25

Delhi Excise Act, 2010-SECTION 23

Delhi Liquor License Rules, 1976

Goa

21

The Goa Excise Duty Act and Rules, 1964

Section 19

(Earlier 18 but according to the Amendment Act 10 in 1976 the age has been increased to 21) 

Gujarat

Illegal

 Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2009

Haryana

25

Punjab Excise Act,1914- SECTION 29 

Himachal Pradesh

18

 THE HIMACHAL PRADESH LIQUOR LICENSE RULES, 1986 RULE- 16

Jammu and Kashmir

21

Jammu and Kashmir Excise Act, 1958

SECTION- 50 B 

Jammu and Kashmir Liquor License and Sales Rules, 1984

RULE 11

Jharkhand

21

 The Bihar & Orissa Excise Act, 1915

Section 54

Karnataka

21

Karnataka Excise Department, 1967

Kerala

18

Abkary Act, (1 OF 1077) Section- 15A & 15B 

Lakshadweep

Illegal

N/A

Madhya Pradesh

21

The Madhya Pradesh Excise Act, 1915- SECTION 23 

Maharashtra

No limit (wine)
21 (beer)
25 (Other)

Bombay Prohibition Act,1949- Part VI-A Rule 70D 

Manipur

Illegal

The Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act of1991 

Meghalaya

25

 EASTERN BENGAL AND ASSAM ACT, 1910

Mizoram

18

Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Bill 2014

Section 58 

Nagaland

Illegal

 Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act, 1989

Orissa

21

THE ODISHA EXCISE ACT, 2005 SECTION 61

Puducherry

18

The Pondicherry Excise Act, 1970

Section 35 

Punjab

25

Punjab Excise Act,1914- SECTION 29

Rajasthan

18

Rajasthan Excise Act 1950, SECTION 22 

Sikkim

18

THE SIKKIM HOME GUARDS BILL, 1992 ( BILL NO. 1 OF 1992 ) SECTION 20 

Tamil Nadu

21

Tamil Nadu Liquor (License and Permit) Rules, 1981Section 25 rule XV

Telangana

21

 Andhra Pradesh  Excise Act 1968- SECTION 36 (until the new law is enforced)

Tripura

21

THE TRIPURA EXCISE ACT, 1987 SECTION 53 

Uttar Pradesh

21

United Provinces Excise Act, 1910 

Section 23

(Earlier 18 but by the amendment in the year 1976 it was increased to 21)

Uttarakhand

21

United Provinces Excise Act, 1910 

The Uttaranchal (The Uttar Pradesh Excise Act, 1910) 

Section 23

(No separate law is available of Uttarakhand) 

West Bengal

21

Bengal Excise Act 1909 SECTION 51

  From the above table we can see the huge variations that are practised by different states for keeping different legal age for consumption of alcohol. But apart from this there are certain more concepts and terms related to Alcohol Laws in India which also needs to be learnt for thorough understanding of the topic.

Some of the terms related to the Alcohol laws in India can be stated as follows:

  1. DRINK and DRIVING LAW

According to the Section 185 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988

The Drunken Driving Law in India states that if a person while driving a motor vehicle, has a Blood Alcohol Level (BAL) exceeding 30 mg of intake per 100 ml of blood which is detected with the help of a Breathalyzer, that particular offender, whether he or she shall be punishable for the first offence with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, or with both; and for a second or subsequent offence, if committed within three years of the commission of the previous similar offence, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to three thousand rupees, or with both.

  1. DRY DAYS

There are some days specifically when the sale of alcohol is prohibited. Republic Day (26 January), Independence Day (15 August) and Gandhi Jayanti (2 October) are usually dry days throughout India as they are considered as the National Holidays so every state is bound to celebrate that day as a DRY DAY.

  1. DRY STATES IN INDIA

There are some states which are known as the dry states in which the sale of alcohol in any form is totally banned to the living inhabitants.

The following is the list of the states which are known as the “DRY STATES”

  1. GUJARAT- Bombay Prohibition( Gujarat Amendment Bill), 2009 was passed in 2011 by the assent of the Governor in Gujarat.
  2. BIHAR- With the passing of the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Bill 2016 the sale and possession of the liquor was prohibited.
  3. NAGALAND- The sale and consumption of Alcohol was banned by passing Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act (“NLTP”) in 1989.
  4. LAKSHWADEEP
  5. MANIPUR.- This north- eastern state, Manipur imposed ban on the sale and consumption of liquor by passing the  Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act of 1991 

THE ABOVE STATES CAN BE REFERRED TO AS THE LIQUOR-LESS STATES AND THEY HAVE SEPARATE LAWS GOVERNING THEM.

Implementation of the Alcohol laws in India

Though we have seen above that alcohol sale and consumption is banned in over 6 states of India which totally restrict the sale, consumption and even possession of the liquor.

Article 47 of the Constitution of India states that “The State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purpose of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health”.

From the table it is visibly clear that legal age of drinking varies between 18 to 25 between different states. But in reality we can see that the alcohol consumption is common between the children and youth from the age of 9 to 19 years which in coming years will considerably reduce to 15 years.

Almost daily we come across headlines hearing about the car accidents by youth under the influence of alcohol like “Drunk senior executive in BMW hits auto rickshaw, injures 4” (Dated May 17, 2016- The Times of India)

The phenomenon of the consumption of alcohol is not only among the rich class of the society, but even the middle class and the poor youth consume it more at a higher extent. The factors which trigger them is the easy availability, weak implementation of laws etc.

Conclusion

From the above article we can clearly infer that banning of sale and consumption of alcohol in some states is a political gimmick and nothing else and just a new elixir for the politicians to attract vote bank.

It is very essential for the nation to ensure that legal drinking age should be strictly followed and there should be diligent participation of the law enforcement agencies towards this.

We need to understand that the youth is the future of our nation India. The time has now come to safeguard their interests by keeping them fit and healthy.

Image Source: http://cdn.scooppick.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Different-Legal-Drinking-Ages.jpg

Author- Bhavneet  Singh Vohra

Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies

TAG: alcohol , laws , drinking , beer , liquor , drinkinga age , dry states , drink and driving , legal , india , Implementation of the Alcohol laws in India , DRY STATES IN INDIA , DRY DAYS , DRINK and DRIVING LAW , Different criteria for ages in different states , consumption age vs. purchase age


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