Alcohol Ban: Dry States in India

27 Sep 2022  Read 8509 Views

In India, according to the National Family Health Survey-5 2019-21, released in 2022, Arunachal Pradesh has the highest proportion of women (24%) and men (53%) who drink alcohol. On the other hand, alcohol is prohibited in a few states such as Bihar, Gujarat, Mizoram, Nagaland etc. The directive principles of state policy (DPSP) in the Indian Constitution (article 47) state that "the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health," however, it is non-justiciable and ‘liquor’ being a state subject, it is the state permitting the sale of liquor or imposing a ban on it. 

Therefore, the liquor ban is a debatable issue that becomes the point of discussion, whether to consider its sale unethical or whether our Constitution actually permits it or not. And if states have imposed a liquor ban, why not the remaining states? What will be the possible losses that state governments face while banning liquor? We shall discuss these in this article. So, let’s get started.

Alcohol banned states in India

Here are the liquor ban states:

Mizoram: The Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition) Act, 2019, was passed unanimously in the state Assembly. The Act replaced the four-year-old Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) or MLPC Act, 2014.

Gujarat: Gujarat is the only Indian state with a death penalty for producing and selling homemade liquor, ultimately leading to fatalities. The legislation is known as the Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Act, 2009. However, this hasn’t completely stopped the consumption and sale of alcohol from the state.

Bihar: Liquor ban in Bihar is the most discussed one. The then Chief Minister Nitish Kumar prohibited the sale of Alcohol state-wide in 2015 when Bihar became a dry state.

Nagaland: Nagaland became a dry state in 1989 when the Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act (NLTP) banned the trade and consumption of alcohol. After banning liquor, bootlegged (illegal) alcohol from Assam and increasing financial restrictions have become a prime concern for the state where the prohibition of alcohol has been in place since 1989

Lakshadweep: Lakshadweep is the only Union Territory in India to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol. Except for the island of Bangaram, which is an inhabited island but has a bar.

Why didn't alcohol ban in India work?

The prime question that comes to our mind that does state governments face losses on liquor bans. Yes, even though states have banned liquor, most governments usually remove the ban a few years later; there have been states that have reportedly lifted the ban on the sale of alcohol due to its financial impacts, such as Andhra Pradesh and Haryana. The reasons for lifting the ban on alcohol sales are mainly two:

  • Even after the liquor ban, it doesn’t work effectively.

  • Taxes from alcohol forms a quarter part of state revenues.

It is often said that the government mostly intends the prohibition of alcohol to win women’s votes, reduce crime, solve social problems, prevent road accidents, or improve health. And people generally don’t stop drinking. Banning alcohol is mostly seen as a vote-getter in our country. It is recommended that the states ban the sale of alcohol as drunk driving is a leading cause of road accidents and is also not good for health, but the move to ban alcohol has led to the growth of state deficits, that is, tampering with state revenue. 

Let’s take an example of Gujarat: 

  • Gujarat has prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol since its formation in 1960, and the state's failure in combating alcohol consumption despite the prohibition is not hidden from anyone. 

  • The bootleggers in the state ensure timely delivery of booze. Liquor flows in from the neighbouring states, which invites corruption money that is utilised in bribing the road transport, excise, police and other government officials. 

  • Accounts suggest that Gujarat loses INR 10,000 crores annually in enforcement and loss of tax due to the prohibition of alcohol.

Alcohol laws of India

  1. Article 21- Right to Consume Liquor

In the landmark case K.S. Puttaswamy And Another v. Union Of India & Ors., the right to privacy was declared a part of article 21. The supporters of the argument that the right to privacy provided in the Indian Constitution includes the right to consume liquor argue that what a person consumes is the result of his personal choice; it is an integral part of his privacy. For further information regarding rights enshrined under the Constitution of India, enroll for the course on Constitutional Law by clicking on the banner below.

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

Fundamental rights provided under Part III of the Indian Constitution is supported by many, saying that the right to trade liquor is included under Article 19(1)(g). Article 19(1)(g) states, ‘All citizens shall have the right to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.’ 

It is also important to note that if the fundamental rights include the right to trade liquor under this article, then the complete ban on liquor trade is indeed an infringement of the Constitution; as Article 19(6) permits the State to put only ‘reasonable restrictions’ and not a complete ban.  

  1. Article 47- Right to Liquor 

Article 47 (DPSP) of the Indian Constitution deals with the State’s duty to raise citizens' nutrition levels, living standards, and public health. As discussed in this article that improving public health is one of the primary duties of the State, and the State must tend to prohibit the consumption of intoxicating drinks. So, because liquor is injurious to health, the State tries to fulfil its duty prescribed under Article 47 of the Indian Constitution. Hence, the right to consume and trade liquor per se doesn’t exist.

Thus, from all these provisions, one can say that there has been an interesting conflict in the arguments supporting or not supporting the sale and consumption of liquor. Now, there are states where there is a complete ban on the sale of liquor. Let’s check it out.

Liquor license

All states have their own rules concerning the trade and consumption of liquor. The liquor trade is permitted only after obtaining the required license from the concerned state excise department. Various liquor licenses are issued for various purposes, such as L-1, L-3, L-6, L-9, L-10, etc.

Legal age of drinking

Legal age differs from one state to another. 

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

 

Cases on liquor ban

1. The State Of Bombay and Another v. F.N Balsara (1951) 

The constitutionality of the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949, was questioned in this case. The said Act restricted the following: 

  • Manufacture, 

  • Trade, 

  • Transport, and 

  • Possession of liquor within the state. 

The petitioner contended that the 1949 Act infringed Article 19(1)(f), which provided citizens with the right to property (omitted by the 44th Constitutional Amendment, 1978), and in an appeal made to the Supreme Court, a 5- Judge's bench unanimously held the said Act as unconstitutional only to the extent of the “ordinary use of liquor for toilet and medicinal preparations”, rest the prohibition on potable liquor is valid. So, the right to consume and trade liquor as a fundamental right per se does not exist. 

2. Khoday Distilleries Ltd. v. State of Karnataka (1994)

This case is one of the landmark cases as far as the right to trade liquor is related. So, this case questioned the constitutional validity of these following rules: 

  1. Karnataka Excise (Distillery and Warehouse) (Amendment) Rules, 1989, 

  2. Karnataka Excise (Manufacture of Wine from Grapes) (Amendment) Rules, 1989,

  3. Karnataka Excise (Brewery) (Amendment) Rules, 1989, 

  4. Karnataka Excise (Sale of Indian and Foreign Liquors) (Amendment) Rules, 1989,

  5. Karnataka Excise (Bottling of Liquor) (Amendment) Rules, 1989,  

  6. Kerala Foreign Liquor Rules, 1974, and

  7. Andhra Pradesh Foreign Liquor and Indian Liquor Rules, 1970. 

It was held (paragraph 60) by a three-Judge bench that the right to carry on any occupation, trade or business does not extend to carrying on trade or business in activities that are inherently injurious to the health, safety and welfare of the general public.

Complying with articles 19(1)(g), 19(6), and 47 of the Indian Constitution, the Court opined that:

  • The state's power to impose reasonable restrictions on the trade run by any citizen, given that they are in the interests of the general public. 

  • No one can be deprived of his property unless the deprivation complies with Article 19(6).   

  • Consumption of liquor can be prohibited by the state to improve public health. 

  • States have the power to prohibit the liquor trade, implying that it has the exclusive power to carry on that trade. 

  • The State can exercise a monopoly on the production & supply of liquor. 

  • No citizen has the fundamental right to trade and consume liquor. 

3. Ugar Sugar Works Ltd. v. Delhi Administration And Others (2001) 

Specific policies relating to the liquor trade within the NCT of Delhi were made under Punjab Excise Act, 1914, which were challenged in this case. The petitioner, a liquor manufacturing company, argued that the restrictions imposed under the said Act infringe his right to trade. So, a three-judge SC bench rejected all the arguments supporting the fundamental liquor right. It held that “there is no fundamental right to trade in intoxicants, like liquor.” 

4. K.S. Puttaswamy And Another v. Union Of India And Others

In case of any violation of the fundamental rights of any citizen, the nine-judge bench held that the State must prove otherwise by:

  1.  Showing that there is a law, and 

  2. It amounts to a reasonable restriction within Article 19(2) of the Constitution”. 

Conclusion 

Alcohol leads to various health disorders like blood pressure, and sometimes, even people tend to act violently in public places under the influence of alcohol. But the complete prohibition on the liquor consumption even in confined, restricted, and protected spaces such as one’s own house violates one’s privacy. By restricting the citizens from drinking what they want, the State curtails their right to privacy, embedded in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. So, the ban is not a reasonable restriction.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 110 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Curator at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course) & she is a patent analyst. She has pursued advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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