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Gujarat Prohibition Act 1949

Gujarat Prohibition Act 1949

Why in news?

  • Recently, the Gujarat Prohibition Act, 1949 has been challenged before the Gujarat High Court, more than seven decades after it came into effect as the Bombay Prohibition Act.
  • The prohibition on manufacture, sale and consumption of liquor in the state vide the Gujarat Prohibition Act, 1949, has been challenged on grounds of ‘manifest arbitrariness’ and violation of ‘right to privacy’.

Background

  • The first hint at the prohibition of liquor was through the Bombay Abkari Act, 1878.
  • This Act dealt with levying of duties on intoxicants, among other things and aspects of prohibition via amendments made in 1939 and 1947.
  • Gujarat adopted the prohibition policy since 1960 and subsequently chose to enforce it with greater rigidity, but also made processes easier for foreign tourists and visitors to get liquor permits.
  • In 2011, it renamed the Act as Gujarat Prohibition Act, objective as stated was “committed to the ideals and principles of Mahatma Gandhi and firmly intends to eradicate the menace of drinking liquor.”

The Gujarat Prohibition Act, 1949

  • Introduced by the then Bombay province as Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949 to overhaul the law relating to intoxicating drugs and narcotics total prohibition.
  • It is an Act relating to the promotion and enforcement of alcohol prohibition in the Bombay State.
  • The Bombay state was divided into the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat in 1960.
  • Gujarat adopted the prohibition policy in 1960 and subsequently chose to enforce it with greater rigidity.
  • In 2011, it renamed the Act as Gujarat Prohibition Act.

Key provisions of the act

  • Also known as the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949, this act is related to promotion and enforcement of alcohol prohibition in the Bombay State.
  • The Bombay state was divided into the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat in 1960.
  • Today the Act is applicable in the State of Gujarat.
  • Gujarat adopted the prohibition policy since 1960 and subsequently chose to enforce it with greater rigidity.
  • Under the Act a permit is mandatory to purchase, possess, consume or serve liquor.
  • The Act empowers the police to arrest a person for purchasing, consuming or serving alcohol without the permit with punishment ranging from three months to five years in prison.
  • It also penalises the transporting of liquor.

Grounds for Challenging the Act

  • Loss of Revenue: Tax revenues from alcohol is a major part of any government’s revenues. These enable the government to finance several public welfare schemes. Absence of these revenues severely impacts state’s ability to run public welfare programmes.
  • The right of privacy: Any invasion by the state in an individual’s right to choice of food and beverage amounts to an unreasonable restriction and destroys the individual’s decisional and bodily autonomy.
  • Ground of Manifest Arbitrariness: It has been especially highlighted while challenging sections pertaining to grant of health permits and temporary permits to out-of-state tourists.

Arguments Against Prohibition

  • Source of Employment: Today, Indian Made Foreign Liquors (IMFL) industry contributes over 1 lakh crore in taxes every year. It supports the livelihood of 35 lakh farming families and provides direct and indirect employment to lakhs of workers employed in the industry.
  • Burden on Judiciary: Bihar introduced complete prohibition in April 2016. While it certainly has led to reduction in alcohol consumption, the related social, economic, and administrative costs have been far too much to justify gains. Prohibition crippled the judicial administration.

Liquor in Indian Constitution

Liquor finds its place in the constitution in seventh schedule (article 246) and Article 47 (DPSP).

  • Seventh Schedule
    • The entry 51 in the State List makes “Alcohol for human consumption” a subject matter of states.
    • This provides states the power to make laws and charge duties on alcoholic liquors for human consumption.                          Gujarat Prohibition Act 1949
    • Thus, each state has its own laws, bylaws and rules towards alcohol. Due to this, legal age of drinking, taxes on liquor and procedure of doing liquor business differ from state to state.
  • Article 47 – DPSP
    • Article 47 under directive principles directs the states to take measures to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health.
    • This article directs 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.
    • Most liquor ban policies are justified on the basis of this article.

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