Liquor & Drinking laws in India

Liquor & Drinking laws in India

Liquor laws in India are a bit complicated and lack uniformity alcohol is listed as a subject under the State list as per 7th schedule of the Constitution because of which the laws differ from state to state. That also means that every state has set different minimum legal drinking age as well as different price range for alcohol sale. The sale of alcohol usually takes place at liquor stores, restaurants, hotels, bars, pubs, clubs and discos. The alcohol laws 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.

The minimum legal drinking age is mainly divided into three categories viz. 18 years, 21 years and 25 years while majority of states opting for 21 years as the required minimum age to drink alcohol. Furthermore, every state has to observe 26th January (Republic Day), 15th August (Independence Day) and 2nd October (Gandhi Jayanti) as compulsory dry days as they are national holidays while they may choose to have other days as dry days depending on their own religious demographics and so on. The states of Gujarat, Bihar, Manipur and Nagaland and the Union Territory of Lakshadweep are dry as the consumption of liquor is banned in these places while Kerala government has started to illegalize consumption of hard liquor in a phased manner in a period of 10 years. This measure of banning alcohol, as opted by the abovementioned states, is in line with the constitution as Article 47 states that “The State shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purpose of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health”. There are provisions in alcohol laws to discourage consumption of alcohol at public places by inflicting upon fine for only consumption and fine plus jail term for causing nuisance after consumption. Moreover, 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”. In a recent judgment, the Hon’ble Supreme court has banned the sale of liquor even by bars and restaurants within a radius of 500 meters of national highways1 to reduce the consumption of alcohol while driving on highways as they are the primary reason for accidents on the highways.

To conclude, it can be said that though there are laws governing sale, purchase and consumption of liquor but, these laws are rarely implemented and followed and the defaulters get away by paying some bribe to the policemen and the authorities and that’s the primary reason for ever

1 State of Tamil Nadu Vs K. Balu, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1487, decided on December 15, 2016

increasing road accident in India, especially in metro cities. There is a dire need to make the laws stricter and the law enforcing authorities more competent to help give the laws some meaning.


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