Alcohol prohibition in India
Alcohol prohibition in India is in force in the states of Bihar, Gujarat, and Nagaland as well as in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep. All other Indian states and union territories permit the sale of alcohol.
The directive principles of state policy (DPSP) in the constitution of India (article 47) state that "....the State shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health". Though the Directive Principles are not-justiciable rights of the people but fundamental in the governance of the country. It shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making policy laws per Article 37. Per Article 38, state and union governments, as duty, shall make further detailed policies and laws for implementation considering DPSPs as fundamental policy. In contrary to Article 37, many policies have been implemented by states and union governmens which go against the DPSPs such as using intoxicating drinks as source of major tax revenue instead of implementing prohibition for better health of people. When the union government feels that alcohol prohibition is no longer useful to the nation, it shall be deleted from DPSPs by bringing a constitutional amendment to remove ambiguity in policy making / direction. Judiciary can repeal any policy/law devised by the government which is diametrically opposite to any DPSP. An existing policy in line with DPSP can not be reversed, however it can be expanded further in line with DPSP. The policy changes applicable under DPSP shall not be reversible unless the applicable DPSP is deleted by constitutional amendment. Many states imposed prohibition of alcohol and later prohibition lifted to collect more revenue/taxes by the states. Lifting / relaxing prohibition of alcohol is unconstitutional which is reversing the earlier implemented policy as per Article 37 as long as alcohol prohibition is part of DPSP.
The temperance movement in India often led to the prohibition of alcohol in various states, as with Manipur. In British India, many Indian temperance activists agitated for prohibition in the country. Mahatma Gandhi was a champion of the temperance movement and viewed foreign rule as an obstacle to national prohibition. When India gained independence in 1947, "prohibition was included in the Constitution of India and the government of several states such as Gujarat introduced it."
States practicing prohibition
On 26 November 2015, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced that alcohol would be banned in the state from 1 April 2016. Kumar officially declared the total ban on 5 April 2016, and said in a press conference, "All type of liquor will be banned in the state from today. Sale [and consumption] of any type of alcohol in hotels, bars, clubs and any other place will be illegal from today onwards." Violating the law carries a penalty of 5 years to 10 years imprisonment. On 30 September 2016 Bihar High Court ruled that the ban is "illegal, impractical and unconstitutional". Although even before the High Court order came, the Bihar government had announced that it would enforce a new stringent law from 2 October 2016, only to stay adamant on it after the order. The government had drafted a new law to keep from withdrawing the ban. As per the new liquor law, those found indulging in unlawful import, export, transport, manufacture, possession, sale, intoxicant or liquor could attract a minimum 10 years of jail term which may extend to imprisonment for life besides a minimum fine of Rs 1 lakh which may extend to Rs 10 lakh, says a report by Press Trust of India. On 3 October 2016, the Bihar government approached Supreme Court of India challenging the High Court order. The Supreme Court Bench headed by Chief Justice T. S. Thakur agreed to give an urgent hearing on the matter and on 7 October 2016, much to the relief of the government, the bench stayed the high court order. "Ban on liquor and fundamental rights do not go together," the SC bench said. The bench has directed the hearing of the matter after 10 weeks. On 25 October 2016, the Bihar Government decided to renew liquor licences of canteens in cantonment areas, military and air force stations for 2016-2017 in the "interest of soldiers", The Telegraph reported.On 21 January 2017, more than 3 crore (30 million) people of Bihar joined hands to form a historic human chain along 12,760 km of roads to support ban on alcohol by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. This unprecedented and massive human chain was supported by people from all walks of life and political parties.
The Government of Bihar introduced a new version of Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act on 2 October 2016, days after the Patna High Court quashed the previous bill, deeming it as "illegal". The act brought in stricter measures, with all Sections in the act being non-bailable and the police being allowed to assume that manufacturing of alcohol was ongoing if utensils containing a mix of jaggery or grapes are found. Under the law, only special courts constituted under Bihar Special Courts Act can try the cases. It also empowered authorities to confiscate properties upon whose premises liquor is either consumed or stored. The new policy was challenged in Patna High Court a day later. Supreme Court of India meanwhile stayed Patna High Court's order on quashing Bihar's ban on alcohol. It stayed proceedings of all challenges to Bihar's new law in the Patna High Court on 2 January 2017, stating that it will itself hear all cases related to the new ban. However, the Bihar government is going to introduce a amendment to the liquor law in the upcoming monsoon session of Bihar assembly beginning July 20. According to the new amendment, the first time offenders will not mandatorily face jail term if they pay a fine of Rs.50,000.
Bombay State had prohibition between 1948 and 1950, and again from 1958. Gujarat has a sumptuary law in force that proscribes the manufacture, storage, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. The legislation has been in force since 1 May 1960 when Bombay State was bifurcated into the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. The Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949 is still in force in Gujarat state, however there is licensing regime in Maharashtra with granting licenses to vendors and traders. Gujarat is the only Indian state with a death penalty for the manufacture and sale of homemade liquor that results in fatalities. The legislation is titled the Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2009. The legislation was prompted by numerous deaths resulting from the consumption of methyl alcohol.
Predictably, smuggling and illicit sale of alcohol are very common. "Folder" is a slang term of unknown origin, used in Gujarat to refer to a bootlegger who delivers alcohol on-demand.
Lakshadweep is the only union territory that bans the sale and consumption of alcohol. Consumption is permitted only on the island of Bangaram. Bangaram is an uninhabited island, but the Bangaram Island Resort has a bar.
The Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act (NLTP) banned the sale and consumption of alcohol in 1989. Enforcement of the ban is lax and Indian Made Foreign Liquor is readily available. Authorities generally turn a blind eye towards illegal sales. Reports have stated that some police officials themselves engage in bootlegging. The Congress party has termed prohibition a "total failure" and has pleaded for it to be revoked.
The excise department had earned around ₹600 lakh (equivalent to ₹42 crore or US$5.8 million in 2017) prior to prohibition. It earned about ₹10 lakh (US$14,000) annually in NLTP Act related fines as of June 2014. The Morung Express estimated that were about 500 illegal liquor bars in Dimapur, the largest city in the state, as of August 2014. Alcohol is also smuggled in from neighbouring Assam.
Dry Days are specific days when the sale of alcohol is prohibited. Dry Days are fixed by the respective state government. Most Indian states observe dry days on major religious festivals/occasions depending on the popularity of the festival in that region. National holidays such as Republic Day (26 January), Independence Day (15 August) and Gandhi Jayanti (2 October) are usually dry days throughout India. Dry days also depend on the establishment selling alcohol. For example, generally 5-star hotels do not have to observe all the dry days that liquor stores and small bars may have to. Dry days are also observed on and around voting days. National dry days also occur during Election Commission of India-ordained voting and result days.
States no longer practicing prohibition
Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram and Tamil Nadu have previously enforced, but later repealed prohibition.
Total prohibition was introduced in Madras State (which included Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema) when C. Rajagopalachari became Chief Minister in 1952. Again ban was introduced by N.T. Rama Rao in 1994. N. Chandrababu Naidu repealed prohibition in 1997, claiming that it was "not successful or feasible because of the leakages within the state and from across the borders".;
Bansi Lal led Vikas Party lift the prohibition on Apr 1, 1998. The total prohibition was in force in the state from July 1996.
Kerala currently allows alcohol to be served in most hotels, bars and airports. A ban imposed by Kerala Congress in 2014 was reversed by the opposition Left government in 2017 when they came to power citing heavy losses in state revenue and sharp decrease in tourism industry.
On 24 August 2014, the Chief Minister Oommen Chandy announced, after a long persuasion from KPCC President V M Sudheeran, that state will implement prohibition in a phased manner. The decision was supported by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and the Kerala Congress. Liquor bars in Kerala had to renew licenses every year; the state government did not license any bar on 31 March 2014, resulting in the closure of 418 bars. The state government also declared its intention of not renewing licenses of the remaining 313 bars in the state next year. The state owned Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco) has 338 shops, and Bevco will shut down 10% of them every year. Consumerfed, which has 46 shops, will also be closed. However, sale of alcohol will continue to be permitted in 5-star hotels, and there were fourteen 5-star hotels in the state as of August 2014. Toddy will also continue to be legally sold, and toddy shops will be permitted to operate as earlier. In 2016 new Chief Minister of Kerala said their studies show total ban is not applicable but they will enforce on regulating alcohol consumption. The proposed plan is to regulate alcohol consumption using Aadhaar cards to a maximum of 14 units per week, as studies show it decreases rising cancer risk and liver disease. This is an agenda of Government of Kerala to promote healthy living.
The Left Democratic Front (Kerala) came to power in 2016 after defeating the previous prohibitionist state government. The state incurred heavy losses due to its mainly tourism based economy being severely affected due to prohibition, subsequently they decided to ease the prohibition of previous government. In June 2017 the ban was revoked, allowing three stars hotels and above to openly serve alcohol to its customers. The restrictions on bars were also eased with bars being allowed to remain open till 2300 instead of previous 2200 with new bars being allowed to apply for license. Airport lounges were also allowed to start serving alcohol again.
Prohibition is enforced in the Imphal East, Imphal West, Thoubal and Bishnupur districts of Manipur. Prohibition was enforced statewide by the R.K. Ranbir Singh government with effect from 1 April 1991. Local brews called ashaba and atingba are available in most areas, and authorities usually ignore their sale and consumption.
In 2002, the Okram Ibobi Singh government lifted prohibition in the five hill districts of Manipur. The state Legislative Assemble passed the Manipur Liquor Prohibition (Amendment) Bill, 2002 on 31 July 2002 lifting prohibition in the districts of Chandel, Churachandpur, Senapati, Tamenglong and Ukhrul. In 2015, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh stated in the Manipur state assembly that the state government was looking at the option of lifting prohibition in the state, but liquor ban still continues in the state.
The Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act, 1995 banned sale and consumption of alcohol effective from 20 February 1997. In 2007, the MLTP Act was amended to allow wine to be made from guavas and grapes, but with restrictions on the alcohol content and the volume possessed. It is illegal to transport these products out of the state.
Mizoram repealed prohibition on 10 July 2014, a period of 17 years after it had been imposed. On that date, the state Legislative Assembly passed the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Bill 2014 (or MLPC), replacing the MLTP Act. The Presbyterian Church had organised mass prayers in all member churches across the state twice that year opposing the repeal of prohibition. Excise and narcotics minister R. Lalzirliana who introduced the MLPC bill explained, "As the prohibition only increased the sale of spurious liquor, we strongly felt the need to lift the prohibition so that those people who cannot do without drinks can find good quality liquor at cheaper prices." Lalzirliana, who also belongs to Presbyterian Church, had also participated in a mass prayer at his local church. The minister stated, "I asked God to prevent me from introducing the bill in the Assembly if that is what he really wanted." The repealing legislation came into force from 15 January 2015, and the first wine shop under the new law was opened on 16 March 2015.
- Alcohol laws of India
- Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016
- Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) 2009
- The Lakshadweep Prohibition Regulation, 1979
- The Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act, 1989
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