This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
The debate in the Constituent Assembly
November 24, 1948. India’s Constituent Assembly had gathered once again to discuss the Draft Constitution. It was less than a year since Mahatma Gandhi had been assassinated and many members invoked his ideals in their speeches. On this day, most of the discussion was whether India should ban liquor altogether.
Kazi Syed Karimuddin, a criminal lawyer from Yavatmal in Maharashtra, had proposed prohibition, saying that a rejection of the proposal would be “the rejection of the wishes of Mahatma Gandhi”.
Supporting him most vociferously were Mahavir Tyagi, a Gandhian from Dehradun who had left the British Army after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, and Shibban Lal Saksena, a former professor of mathematics and philosophy from Agra.
In an essay on the Constituent Assembly debates, historian Kalyani Ramnath quotes Tyagi as saying, “Gandhiji’s foremost plank of constructive programme was prohibition (cheers)… If we cannot have even this small reform in our Constitution, the book will not be even worth touching with a pair of tongs.”
Rejecting Gandhi’s wishes was not an easy task. So when Balasaheb Hanumantrao Khardekar rose to address the Assembly for the first time ever on that day, he admitted that he was extremely nervous. The 45-year-old lawyer and independent member from Kolhapur also mentioned that he had never addressed any assembly, not even in school or college. But his blistering critique turned the tide.
The voice against prohibition He said at the outset that the arguments in favour of prohibition were “very flimsy” and then proceeded to dismantle them one by one.
First, he said, the United States, whose experience with prohibition others had quoted, had reversed its own decision. And India should learn from the mistake.
Second, he raised the technical point that though the Congress party had pledged to enforce prohibition, it was no longer a mass organisation representing the wishes of the teeming millions, but a political party.
Third, he pointed to the failure of prohibition in Madras Presidency, where C Rajagopalachari had imposed it in 1937, but where “a number of people still go on indulging in drinks and filling the innumerable jails”.
Fourth, he took exception to the argument that all communities wanted prohibition. He said he knew the Parsis and Christians well, and they were definitely not in favour of prohibition.
Finally, he went up against the most difficult argument of all – the wishes of the Father of the Nation.
The gloves were off. Calling his Gandhi-quoting colleagues “lisping babes”, Khardekar said that though prohibition was an “outward trapping of Gandhism”, the essence of Gandhi’s teachings was of love and tolerance. “Gandhiji's conception was that though truth is one, every individual is to have his own approach to truth, and every individual had to see it for himself.”
He called the times “an age of interrogation” and exhorted the Assembly to attend to more pressing needs like education, health and war, and postpone the banning of alcohol.
He invoked luminaries as diverse as George Bernard Shaw, Kalidasa, Harold Laski and the Greek philosophers to support his argument for promoting liberty in a newly independent nation. He gave an irony-drenched example of club life without alcohol: “Consider some friends having a discussion in the evening quite seriously over a glass of butter-milk, as against an intellectual discussion over a glass of wine or even beer.”
Khardekar even quoted an unnamed editor of The Times of India to say that “there are things other than liquor that go to the head, and power is one”. He exhorted the Congress party not to suffer from it.
Politics of prohibition Though his was the most respected voice on the topic, Gandhi wasn’t the first leader to root for prohibition. India’s political opposition to alcohol galvanised after 1878, when, faced with dwindling revenues from opium and stagnant revenues from tea, the British introduced the Abkari Act in Bombay Presidency. It was a blatant attempt to divert consumption from indigenous liquors and make money from the increased uptake of newly licensed liquors.
By the time Gandhi joined the issue after his return from South Africa in 1915, the temperance movement in India had already gained significant political momentum. Historian Robert Eric Colvard notes that in Pune, both Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, political opponents on other issues, had found common ground from the late 1900s in banning liquor.
The agitation at Chauri Chaura in Bihar in 1922, now known as the first staging ground for Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience movement, started with angry locals demonstrating against liquor sales and high food prices. Though Gandhi proscribed the use of violence, he retained the right to non-violently picket liquor stores in the Gandhi-Irwin pact of 1931.
Rajagopalachari later wrote that Gandhi considered “drinking was like a disease and the sufferer must be protected against himself. It is not coercion to give him treatment for his own good, nor is it coercion for the State to save its people from the disease of drink by driving it out”.
The economics of prohibition
Apart from quoting Gandhi, Saksena estimated that prohibition would cost the exchequer revenues of roughly Rs 25 crore. This was a hefty sum for the cash-starved nation, given that independent India’s first interim budget a year earlier had estimated a total expenditure of only Rs 197 crore.
Earlier, on November 4, the report of the Expert Committee on Financial Provisions had informed the Assembly that all provinces except Bengal and Assam had had budget surpluses during the war years, and a substantial part of the increased revenues came from higher collection of excise and customs duties on alcohol and drugs like opium.
But the arguments made for or against prohibition were more moral and social than they were financial.
Apart from Khardekar, the few that opposed prohibition or requested its postponement did so mostly on the grounds of religious or tribal rights.
Historian Ramachandra Guha has noted that in a public consultation conducted by the Assembly, the All India Varnashrama Swarajya Sangh had recommended that the Constitution be predicated on “ancient Hindu works” and, in particular, ban cow slaughter and liquor.
There was the issue of the rights of India’s 30 millions indigenous population, too. Jaipal Singh Munda, a former captain of the victorious Indian hockey team at the 1928 Olympics, took up the cause of the tribals in West Bengal, Southern Bihar and Odisha: “It would be impossible for paddy to be transplanted if the Santhal does not get his rice beer. These ill clad men, without even their barest wants satisfied, have to work knee-deep in water throughout the day, in drenching rain and mud. What is it in the rice beer that keeps them alive?”
Among those opposing Jaipal Singh was Balasaheb Gangadhar Kher, who would become Bombay state's first chief minister. Calling drinking a sin, he said, “The drinking of liquor is one of the five deadly sins which the Smritis (ancient texts of human origin) have laid down and that was… the result of vast experience.”
Frank Anthony, an educationist representing the Anglo-Indian community from Central Provinces and Berar, challenged Kher directly: “Can you create morality through legislation?... As long as you have chawls for workers in the urban areas, and you cannot even provide them with a semblance of decent living conditions, what is the good of trying to make them moral or weaning them from drunkenness by legislation?”
He thought it was “an idealistic chimera” that should not be placed in the Directive Principles.
In the end, Khardekar prevailed, and Frank Anthony failed in his limited goal: the Constitution stopped short of an outright ban on alcohol, but kept it on the Directive Principles of state policy.
Liquor prohibition rules
From the archives of India Today , July 27, 2008
Many states tried prohibition but had to backtrack later
• The Bansi Lal government kept its election promise and introduced prohibition in Haryana in 1996. But bordered by three states, implementing the policy became difficult, giving rise to liquor mafias. Besides, the state was losing about Rs 1,100 crore a year. The policy was repealed after only 21 months.
• The N.T.Rama Rao-led TDP government declared Andhra Pradesh dry in 1995 with a clear eye on the women’s vote but prohibition was repealed by his son-in-law N. Chandrababu Naidu who seized power following a family coup in 1997.
• Tamil Nadu, dry until 1971, went wet only to revert to prohibition in 1974.Repealed dry laws in 1981 and wet since.
Overview: history, economics, impact
Prohibition in India, an overview: history, economics, impact, As in 2019
SC reiterates ban on liquor vends within 500m. of highways
No Exemption For Hotels Or Restaurants
The Supreme Court refused to revisit its order banning liquor vends within 500 metres of national and state highways from April 1 and ruled that this would also bar hotels and restaurants on highways from serving liquor to guests.
In its December 15 order that kept in mind the large number of deaths on highways due to drunken driving and the easy availability of alcohol, the SC had ordered that no liquor vend could operate wit hin 500 metres of NHs and SHs.It had also said these vends could not be visible from highways and nor could hoardings be put up advertising their proximity to the highways.
The only relaxation given by the SC was in terms of the distance, and that too for small municipal areas that have come up on both sides of NHs and SHs. But it said liquor vends in these small towns could operate 220 metres from the NHs and SHs only if the population of the settlement was 20,000 or less, a suggestion given by Karnataka additional advocate general Devadatta Kamat on Thursday . Nearly 75 liquor vendors across the country had petitioned the SC for relaxation on the ground that it would cause enormous revenue loss to states as well as hit their business, and cause difficulty for common people. But drowning the hopes of a relaxation in the March 31 deadline, a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices D Y Chandrachud and L N Rao declared that the March 31 deadline won't be deferred.
In addition, the SC clarified that the ban on liquor vends would apply in equal rigour to hotels and restaurants situated within 500 metres of NHs and SHs and they would be barred from serving liquor to patrons.
The court said it had passed the order banning liquor vends within 500 metres of highways on the assumption that the excise year was from April 1 to March 31, during which period licences for liquor vends are allotted through auction. It said licences in Telangana were given from October 1 to Septem ber 30 and in Andhra Pradesh it was from July 1to June 30.
The SC said in Telangana and AP , liquor vends with licences granted before December 15 last year would continue to operate on highways till September 30 and June 30, respectively .However, these two states will have to adhere to the 500-metre rule for liquor vends from the new excise year.
The small hill states of Sikkim and Meghalaya, which had pleaded that 500 metres on both sides of NHs and SHs were not available because of topography , with hill on one side and gorge on the other, were exempted from the distance rule. However, a similar argument by Himachal Pradesh found part favour with the court, which said in HP , the 220-metre distance rule would apply for liquor vends on highways.
Liquor sold within 500m. of highways
SC reiterates ban on liquor vends within 500m. of highways
The Supreme Court ban on liquor sale along highways is limited to retail shops and vends, and does not apply to hotels, restaurants and bars, according to two eminent former judges.
In separate and similar opinions to two hotel and restaurant associations, former Supreme Court Justice B N Srikrishna and former Delhi high court Chief Justice A P Shah have interpreted the SC order differently from excise and other authorities.
Srikrishna said the “question before the SC and answered by the SC categorically was that no liquor vends should be permitted within certain distance of highways and finally all liquor licenses for shops and vends, if already issued, shall end by March 31after which there shall be no fresh liquor licenses issued. Shah, who also served as chairman of the Law Commission, “opined“ that the ban “applies only to liquor shops and vends and does not extend to hotels and restaurants within 500 metres from the national and state highways across the country“.
The SC by its orders on December 15, 2016 had directed that it “restrains the grant of licences for the sale of liquor along national and state highways and within 500 metres of the outer edge of a highway or of a service lane along the state highway.“ While the judges' opinions were based on the directions issued by the SC in December, hotel and restaurant owners contend that the March 31order was in line with what the court had earlier laid down. The only modification was that “for areas comprised in local bodies with a population of up to 20,000 people, it reduced the distance from highway to 220 metres. Srikrishna said, “In my opinion, it would be necessary to look at the background in which the judgment by SC was rendered to appreciate its import.“ Both he and Shah observed how two different public interest litigations had sought implementation of a liquor policy of the Centre and of various states to regulate retail liquor outlets or vends along and close to the highways to deal with the rise in road accidents due to drunken driving.The PILs were before the high courts of Madras and Punjab & Haryana in 2012. Shah said, “It is pertinent to note that neither of these two judgements (by the two high courts) dealt with serving of alcohol in hotels or restaurants... A distinction in liquor licenses for various establishments was a prominent reason both legal luminaries cited to state why the SC ban would apply only to liquor vendsshops and not hotels or restaurants. “Licenses issued for sale of liquor and consumption of liquor on premises are distinctly different and operate in favour of different categories of establishment, said Srikrishna. “A liquor vend or shop is not permitted to allow consumption of alcohol on its premises. Conversely , an establishment like a bar, restaurant or a hotel, is permitted to allow consumption but not allowed to sell liquor on its premises, he noted.
Shah too said, “It is important to understand different licences are granted for sale or service of liquor in shops and in hotelsrestaurants. The Punjab & Haryana HC too had taken note of “the menace of drinking and driving arising from liquor vends being easily accessible from highways, he said.
Srikrishna said, “ A reading of the SC judgment (dated December 15) would clearly indicate that all observations made by the SC were against permitting liquor vends shops within certain distance of the highways...The direction also suggests that what is prohibited is visibility of a shop for sale of liquor. Senior advocate Lalit Bhasin also said the order does not apply to hotels, restaurant or bars. “In the main judgement there is not a whisper about any prohibition on service of alcoholic beverages by hotels, restaurants and bars located close to the highways,“ he said. These, he said, were “different and distinct“ from shops and vends, and the two could not be “clubbed together“.
’SC order applies only to vends, not hotels, bars’
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi has told the Kerala government that the Supreme Court order banning liquor vends within 500 metres of state and national highways does not apply to bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.
The AG's view could apply to other states as well as the court imposed deadline to shut down liquor vends from April 1 approaches amid a discussion over the effect on areas such as Gurgaon's high profile Cyber Hub with its bars that lie alongside the Delhi-Jaipur highway .
State governments had strongly opposed the ban citing huge loss of revenue.Kerala government had sought the AG's opinion as it was facing a huge problem in the state as the deadline of March 31 to cancel all licences of liquor vends was fast approaching.
TOI asked Rohatgi whether this opinion would not put at naught the effect of the SC ban as liquor vends would soon convert themselves into bars and pubs.Rohatgi said the judgment was clear in its application only to liquor vends.
He said if bars and restaurants serving liquor were to be brought within the ambit of the SC judgment, the court would have said so in its decision. Moreover, it was not a valid argument to equate liquor vends with pubs and restaurants serving liquor Rohatgi said bars, pubs and restaurants were exempt from the ambit of the SC ban and added that the December 15 judgment categorically and specifically applied to liquor vends and not other establishments serving liquor to patrons.
The SC on December 15 had directed state governments not to renew licences of liquor vends operating within 500 metres of state and national highways after April 1, holding them as a prime reason for fatalities caused by drunken driving. The order was passed by the SC on a PIL filed by “Arrive Safe“ NGO which said nearly 1.42 lakh people died annually on roads in India because of accidents, drunken driving being a major contributor to this high toll of human lives.
Highway liquor vends, bars must close: Supreme Court
Liquor vends within 500 metres of national and state highways have been banned from April 1
This would also bar hotels and restaurants on highways from serving liquor to guests
Nearly 75 liquor vendors across the country had petitioned the SC for relaxation
The Supreme Court refused to revisit its order banning liquor vends+ within 500 metres of national highways (NH) and state highways (SH) from April 1 and ruled that this would also bar hotels and restaurants on highways from serving liquor to guests.
In its December 15 order+ that kept in mind the large number of deaths on highways due to drunken driving and the easy availability of alcohol, the SC had ordered that no liquor vend could operate within 500 metres of NHs and SHs.
It had also said these vends could not be visible from highways and nor could hoardings be put up advertising their proximity to the highways. The only relaxation given by the SC was in terms of the distance, and that too for small municipal areas that have come up on both sides of NHs and SHs. But it said liquor vends in these small towns could operate 220 metres from the NHs and SHs only if the population of the settlement was 20,000 or less, a suggestion given by Karnataka additional advocate general Devadatta Kamat.
Nearly 75 liquor vendors across the country had petitioned the SC for relaxation on the ground that it would cause enormous revenue loss to states as well as hit their business, and cause difficulty for common people.
But drowning the hopes of a relaxation in the March 31 deadline, a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices D Y Chandrachud and L N Rao declared that the March 31 deadline won't be deferred.
In addition, the SC clarified that the ban on liquor vends would apply in equal rigour to hotels and restaurants situated within 500 metres of NHs and SHs and they would be barred from serving liquor to patrons. The court said it had passed the order banning liquor vends within 500 metres of highways on the assumption that the excise year was from April 1 to March 31, during which period licences for liquor vends are allotted through auction. It said licences in Telangana were given from October 1 to September 30 and in Andhra Pradesh it was from July 1 to June 30.
The SC said in Telangana and AP, liquor vends with licences granted before December 15 last year would continue to operate on highways till September 30 and June 30, respectively. However, these two states will have to adhere to the 500-metre rule for liquor vends from the new excise year. The small hill states of Sikkim and Meghalaya, which had pleaded that 500 metres on both sides of NHs and SHs were not available because of topography, with hill on one side and gorge on the other, were exempted from the distance rule. However, a similar argument by Himachal Pradesh found part favour with the court, which said in HP, the 220-metre distance rule would apply for liquor vends on highways.
SC dilutes ban along highways within municipal limits
The Supreme Court paved the way on Tuesday for states to denotify highways passing through municipal limits to allow liquor vends to resume business. A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices D Y Chandrachud and L N Rao dismissed a petition challenging a March 30 order of the Punjab and Haryana high court, which had upheld the Chandigarh administration's decision to denotify stretches of highways passing through the city so as to permit liquor vends to resume sale. The court recognised that there was no attempt to revive vends except those in city limits.
The SC bench had banned liquor vends within 500 metres of national and state highways, an order which came into effect on April 1. The bench had brushed aside vociferous pro tests by senior advocate C A Sundaram, who had said major five star hotels in Delhi would be banned from serving liquor to guests as these hotels were on both sides of national highways crisscrossing the capital.
However, on Tuesday , the bench came around and said it never meant to ban the sale of liquor on roads passing through cities. “What was intended to be directed by the judgment was so long as the road remains a highway , it gets covered by the judgment (banning liquor vends within 500 metres of it). If it is no longer a highway , the order will not apply ,“ the bench said. “If a state has the authority to denotify a highway to municipal road, then we will test whether it is doing so to violate the SC order. If they had denotified highways outside city limits, then we would have taken umbrage. But they have done so within city limits,“ the bench said, observing that it would dismiss the appeal against the HC order while delivering the detailed judgment.
On March 30, the Punjab and Haryana HC had upheld the Chandigarh administration's decision to denotify highways within city limits. Of the 99 liquor vends affected by the SC order in Chandigarh, the denotification of highways allowed 77 to step around the ban and resume business.
Andaman, Arunachal, Mizoram, Sikkim exempted
The Supreme Court on Wednesday added Arunachal Pradesh to the list of states exempted from closing down liquor vends in the vicinity of highways, a direction given to curb fatal accidents because of drunken driving. Arunachal Pradesh counsel Rajiv Datta pleaded with a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar, Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice L N Rao that the apex court ban on highway liquor vends would spell doom for the state's revenue collection.
“There are 1,011 liquor vends in total in the state, of which implementation of SC order would warrant closure of 960. Arunachal does not have many state highways.Almost all the roads are national highways which are built with central funding. The state's total revenue generation is Rs 441.61 crore of which liquor vends contribute almost 50% at Rs 210 crore,“ Datta said.
The bench then agreed to exempt Arunachal Pradesh from closure of liquor vends on highways as it had done in the case of Sikkim as well as Mizoram.
Uttarakhand, through additional advocate general Mukesh Giri, tried to get similar advantage for itself. Giri said nine out of the 13 districts in the state were hilly and the only major road passing through these districts were either national or state highways.
Giri also said that of the 532 liquor vends in the state, 255 abutted national highways and 155 were closed, causing a severe strain on the state's revenue.
But the bench said that the state must provide additional data if it wanted to convince the court for a similar exemption which was granted to other hilly states.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands pleaded that it had very few liquor vends but most of it faced closure as they were operating near highways, the only link between capital city Port Blair and other towns. The Supreme Court then exempted the Union territory from the rigour of its order.
How states are bypassing the ban
West Bengal, Punjab de-notify state highways
STATES DENOTIFY HIGHWAYS TO SAVE BARS & VENDS, BUT PEOPLE FORCIBLY CLOSE SHOPS
West Bengal and Punjab on Tuesday started denotifying stretches of state highways to bypass the Supreme Court ban on liquor vends and bars within 500 metres from highways.
While Punjab denotified bypass stretches of seven state highways, making them a part of city roads, Bengal officials said portions of state highways would gradually be converted to “district urban“ roads. Curiously , the West Bengal PWD website said the denotification directive was signed on March 16, a fortnight before SC's verdict.
TOI has learnt that states have full authority to change the name of any road which falls under their jurisdiction, except national highways.
Central government sources said there have been talks about how states are trying to avoid losing revenue from sale of liquor through denotification of state highways. However, activist Harman Singh Sidhu, who had fought the case for banning liquor vends along highways, said this effort may also face some legal hurdle.
“We have already filed a case in the Supreme Court against the Chandigarh administration, which denotified some of the state highways passing through the Union Territory ,“ Sidhu told TOI. He said earlier efforts to exclude highways falling in municipal limits from the SC order have been turned down by the apex court.
Punjab amends law to beat SC ban
Becomes First State To Amend Excise Act, Allow Booze Sale Near Highways
Punjab has become the first state in the country to take the Excise Act amendment route to make way for booze sale near highways after the Supreme Court barred liquor vends within a 500-metre radius of highways on December 15 in 2016.
The government on Friday amended the Punjab Excise Act, allowing hotels, restaurants and clubs situated within 500 metres of highways to serve alcohol, saying it would help “secure livelihood“ of a large segment of the population.
However, restriction on opening of liquor vends within 500 metres of highways will stay as per the directions of the Supreme Court.
“With this new amendment, all ambiguities pertaining to serving of liquor at hotels, restaurants and clubs near the highways would be removed,“ a senior government official told TOI.
The amendment Bill 2017, with regard to the Punjab Excise Act, 1914, was tabled in the ongoing Budget session and was cleared on June 19 by the cabinet.
“The bill aims to ensure that hotels, restaurants, clubs and other notified places are allowed to serve alcohol only for consumption within their premises to secure the livelihood of a large segment of the state's population,“ the amendment says.
“The judicial pronouncement is aimed at checking drunken driving and the re sultant losses. However, there are a large number of hotels, restaurants, clubs and other enclosed notified places where liquor is sold for consumption,“ it adds. According to the bill, the restaurants and hotels are a part of the hospitality and tourism industry which “generates substantial employment in the state“.
“Absence of liquor... may create substantial unemployment in the state,“ the bill says.
2018: 'Liquor back on 70% of India's highways'
Supreme Court order has lost teeth, says Chandigarh activist whose PIL led to the highway liquor ban
Liquor shops have returned with a vengeance along highways
In the past year, almost 70% of the national and state highways across the country have been exempted from the Supreme Court’s order banning liquor shops within 500 metres of the stretches. If anything, the shops have returned with a vengeance, according to road safety activist Harman Sidhu, whose PIL led to the highway liquor ban.
“I am even more disappointed that Chandigarh, my home, took the lead in these exemptions,” says Sidhu who started NGO Arrive Safe more than 20 years ago after a road accident in the Morni Hills left him paralysed from the waist down. "It is unfortunate that Chandigarh showed the country how the order can be circumvented and defeated," Sidhu added.
He adds, “Under the present scheme of things, most highways either come under municipal corporations, municipal councils or gram panchayats, which have been given exemption. The result is that liquor vends have mushroomed more than ever before on them. I wonder where the Supreme Court order is actually being implemented today.”
The Supreme Court had on March 31 ordered liquor vends within 500 metres of national and state highways to shut down from April 1. The top court had later clarified its stand and said that the restriction would not apply to highways within city limits.
Some of the biggest hotels and pubs in Chandigarh were on arterial roads that had been defined as highways for technical reasons, forcing many of the most popular watering holes of the city to shut shop for months. Even five star hotels in the heart of the city were forced to go dry.
Today, Chandigarh has not only eased the restriction on most stretches, but the new excise policy allows wine and beer to be sold from petrol pumps. “It is as if they are promoting drunken driving,” an angry Sidhu says.
When Sidhu had first moved the Punjab and Haryana high court in 2012 for the highway liquor ban, he had a simple objective – that people should not die on the roads because of drunken driving. “I wanted that there should be no availability of liquor on highways and this happened with the court order. But it was followed by a series of denotifications and change of nomenclature of roads. The liquor lobby convinced politicians to find a way around the ban. Different state governments have done everything to circumvent the court order.”
He is now pinning his hopes on the Punjab and Haryana high court which has directed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) not to allow any liquor vend to open along highways without its permission. NHAI officials too feel that liquor vends have reopened and seem to be in larger numbers. VK Sharma project director for NHAI at Ambala said, "I have written a letter to the government officials on the issue. After following the right procedure, we would deny access to liquor vends on highways if rules are not followed. We will go as per the high court orders."
CHANDIGARH A COBWEB OF HIGHWAYS, THANKS TO JUGAAD
Sidhu adds that Chandigarh virtually led the movement to exempt city roads from the Supreme Court order because it had done something rather silly. “This city of 10 lakh population had nearly 20 highways running through it,” he says. “This would normally make no sense but it happened because the city administration had adopted policy of convenience where it designated city roads as highways when it wanted money from the central government to repair roads,” the activist says. “When they wanted to earn revenue from liquor they changed the nomenclature back to city roads. This became a precedent for other states to follow. You expect such ‘jugaad’ from businessmen, not the government.”
Sidhu also questions the Union Territory administration’s decision to allow petrol pumps to sell wine and imported beer on their premises till 1 am. “Where is there a need for this?” he wonders. “Already, every sector in the city has a liquor vend besides a number of hotels, bars and breweries.”
YEAR AFTER THREATS, NO FIR
The activist says his attempt at making highways free of liquor vends has not gone down well with many people. He claims to have got threat calls and letters. Some goons had apparently also pelted stones at his home and fired in the air after the Supreme Court order had come.
“Despite all this, the Chandigarh police hasn’t yet filed an FIR in these cases,” he alleged. “They have not investigated the cases seriously.” In fact, I have just got information under the RTI Act that his matter is pending and the forensic lab report is awaited to find out if someone had fired at my house or not. The report may come in the next 10 years,” he says sarcastically. Despite all the hurdles he has faced, Sidhu insists that he will keep fighting this battle until the roads of the country have become safer.
SIDHU MOVES HC, SAYS VENDS NOT SEEKING NHAI NOD
In the latest development, the Punjab and Haryana high court on Saturday issued notices to the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and Haryana and Punjab on a plea filed by filed by local NGO, Arrive Safe through its president Harman Sidhu.
He has moved the high court against non-compliance of its directions that the NHAI should not to allow any liquor vend to open along highways without its permission. In its March 27, 2018 order, the high court had clarified that no liquor vends, even those within MC area but beyond the town, shall be allowed to operate without access permission from the NHAI. The high court had ordered that as per the Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act, 2002, it would be essential that permission for occupying lands which fall outside municipal limits of towns, cities and villages but fall on the highway is sought from the NHAI administration.
“It shall be for the highway administration to examine individual cases and determine the proximity of the location of the liquor vend to the towns, cities and villages on the highways within the municipal areas keeping in view the safety and convenience of traffic in terms of the provisions of the 2002 Act,” the high court had ruled. Sidhu told the high court to check the compliance of its March 27 order, he had visited many places and was disturbed to see the directions given in the judgment have not been followed.
In support of his petition, he also attached several photographs he had clicked where liquor vends were operating in complete violation of the high court order. His main argument was that these vends were operating without any permission from the NHAI.
The petitioner had submitted a specific complaint on April 17 on the issue to the NHAI against violation of high court order, but got no reply.
The effect of SC’s order banning liquor outlets on highways
After raising a toast to road safety in their campaigns for years, global drinks giants Diageo and Pernod Ricard have fallen silent on last month's Supreme Court order banning liquor outlets and bars on national and state highways.The reason: They , along with other Indian distillers, are probably bracing for a significant business disruption with data suggesting that 42% of liquor vends in the country face dislocation when the court directive takes effect on April 1.
In India, 330 million cases (9 litres each) of branded liquor are sold through more than 64,000 licensed outlets. Nearly 26,800 of them need to be relocated or closed down, according to industry data vetted by the country's top distillers.
On December 15, the apex court ruled that shops and bars selling all forms of liquor within a 500-meter radius of highways should cease to exist citing the rising incidence of alcoholfuelled road accidents. The pub lic works department is expected to determine whether the vends would attract the court gag and must relocate, a complex process which requires the nod of excise departments and local civic bodies.
“While we fully respect the court order, the fact is that most Indian urban agglomerations are centred around highways, making it disruptive for the alcoholic beverages industry .This dislocation of retail trade comes at a very inopportune moment. I have never seen a period worst than the current financial year in my 38-year-old career,“ said Deepak Roy , vice chairman of Allied Blenders & Distillers (ABD), the third largest distiller in the country.
The domestic liquor consumption has swung negative, with 1% degrowth and volume sales declining for major companies like Diageocontrolled United Spirits and ABD. Pernod Ricard is reporting 2% growth, but is staring at its lowest India growth. Predictably , United Spirits and Pernod Ricard declined to comment on the story.
Several retail associations are moving a review petition in the top court, the fate of which would be known in the coming days. These petitioners are likely to plead that less than 6% of road accidents in the country are alcohol-induced ones. Roy said the impending dislocation has the potential to push a large part of the trade underground, or causing them to dry up. “The fact that we are perceived as a sin industry and a heavily regulated one reduces the manoeuvring space,“ he added.
The impact on liquor trade will be the most in hilly regions like Meghalaya, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand and densely populated markets -which would include the high-profile business corridors in Gurgaon and even the Western Express highway in Mumbai. Most big states such as Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra, Rajasthan and West Bengal will see between 40% and 60% of the retail trade facing the axe. Telangana is considering a move to denotify state highways in urban centres as excise revenue from the liquor trade fills the coffers of several federal governments.
Bihar, 2016: roads much safer, deaths down 60%
Crashes Also Come Down By 60%
Complete prohibition of liquor in Bihar has resulted in over 60% reduction in road deaths and crashes caused due to drunk driving. Unpublished data accessed by TOI show that while 867 persons died in 2015 due to drunk driving in the state, fatalities reduced to 326 during 2016.
The declining trend in road accidents come at a time when the country is debating whether limiting access to liquor for drivers on highways actually brings down road crashes, fatalities and injuries in the light of Supreme Court banning sale of liquor within 500 metres of either side of National Highways.
Sources in Bihar police said liquor prohibition has actually helped in reducing road deaths in the state and Bihar has recorded maximum improvement among states during 2016 so far as road crashes and deaths are concerned.
Bihar registered 541 fewer deaths in road crashes in 2016 in comparison to the previous year. Data show that this reduction happened primarily due to sharp fall in fa talities due to drunk driving.
According to World Health Organisation reports, drinking and driving is one of the main causes of road crashes worldwide. In high-income countries about 20% of fatally injured drivers have excess alcohol in their blood, while in some low and middleincome countries these figu res may be up to 69%.
However, due to poor enforcement and detection primarily because of lack of trained personnel and gadgets India officially registers very few drunk driving cases. According to published data of 2015, intake of alcohol drugs accounted for only 16,298 crashes and claimed 6,755 lives despite alcohol consumption and drunk driving being very common on Indian roads.This is the reason why data recorded by police are often questioned by experts.
“Fall in road deaths in Bihar needs to be applauded. However, since crashes are not scientifically investigated, the data on causative factor is unreliable. We have to have proper investigation of crashes to find reasons for taking corrective measures,“ road safety expert Rohit Baluja said.
Recognising, drunk driving as a major risk for road safety , the amendments to the Motor Vehicle law have proposed fine up to Rs 10,000 for drunk drivers for first offence and up to Rs 15,000 for repeat offence.
States revenues from liquor sales
Benefits of prohibition: Bihar, 2016-17
If the Nitish Kumar government is to be believed, prohibition has turned Bihar into the land of lawabiding people and industrious milk drinkers. Its Gross Domestic Happiness' has increased, which will ranslate into enhanced human resource potential, the state government has informed the Supreme Court. Since prohibition was imposed a year ago, abductions dipped by 61.76%, murder by 28%, dacoity by 23% and rape by 10%, while car and tractor sales jumped by 30%.
Sale of milk and milk products has registered an 11% upswing. The other items selling briskly are hosiery and readymade garments (up by 44%), furniture (20%), sewing machines (19%), sports goods (18%), fast moving consumer goods (18%), cars (30%), tractors (29%), twowheelers (31.6%) and engine and motors (33.6%).
The JD(U)-RLD government, in its affidavit to the court, said, “According to annual health survey of 2011, about 9.5% of people of Bihar, including women, in the age bracket of 15 years and above used to consume alcohol. Based on this estimate and taking into account the 2011 Census figures, at least 44 lakh people in the state were alcoholics prior to April 2016, when prohibition was enforced in the state.“ The affidavit said this population of alcoholics was each spending Rs 1,000 on liquor every month on an average, which added up to Rs 440 crore. Thus, nearly Rs 5,280 crore is now being saved a year. “The money which was otherwise spent in consumption of alcohol is now being utilised for augmenting family budget for food, clothing, education and other productive purposes,“ it said through advocate Keshav Mohan.
But the state exchequer took a big hit. The state said it could suffer a excise duty loss of around Rs 5,000 crore because of prohibition. “In order to overcome such revenue loss, the state government has enhanced value added tax (VAT) on certain itemscommodities, which would mitigate some loss to the state exchequer.As a result of prohibition, there is an increase in household savings which is translating into increased spending on consumer items. This, in turn, would increase tax collection of the state,“ the government said.
Apart from drawing an inseparable link between liquor and crime, the state said prohibition enforced since April, 2016 has reduced even riots by 17.52% compared to the same period in the previous year. Road accidents and casualties in such accidents reduced by 20%.
Having to deal with a large number of alcohol addicts, the state government set up de-addiction centres in 38 districts where free counselling was provided. “Since April 1, 2016, a total 8,763 persons have been treated at de-addiction centres,“ it said. This means, on an average each de-addition centre treated 8 persons a month.
Bihar: 17.5% increase in purchase of milk products, 2016-17
Has the alcohol ban imposed in 2016 turned Bihar into a land of milk and honey, and helped reduce crime rates? Two early studies commissioned by the state government seem to suggest so.
A study by the Development Management Institute (DMI), Patna showed a 17.5% increase in the purchase of milk products in 2016-17 compared with a year before.
For widely consumed milk products such as flavoured milk, Sudha special lassi and plain dahi, the increase was even higher.
The total consumption of milk and milk products would be even higher if one were to include sales by private players. Sale of honey grew 380% while cheese rose 200%.
The study also seems to indicate that drinkers have diverted their alcohol spends to consumer goods. For example, sale of expensive sarees rose 1,715%, expensive dress material rose 910%, and processed food grew 46%.
29% rise in Bihar entertainment tax collection
There has been an increase of 29% in the collection of entertainment tax since prohibition was imposed in Bihar, according to a study commissioned by the state government. Armed with more purchasing power, households also pushed up sales of four-wheelers by 30%, tractors by 29% and two and three wheelers by 32%.
Basing its calculations on 2011 consumption figures, the study showed there were 44 lakh alcoholics in the state when prohibition was announced. “Even by a conservative estimate, each of these drinkers have been spending at least Rs 1,000 per month on alcohol. On this basis, there was a saving of at least Rs 440 crore every month, which translates to Rs 5,280 crore per year,” the study said.
This exercise was based on data collected from five districts: Nawada, Purbia, Samastipur, West Champaran and Kaimur. From each district, 2 blocks were chosen and from each block, 2 villages were selected which led to a sample of 20 villages. From these villages, 2,368 households were selected for the primary survey.
The study on crime rates undertaken by the Patna-based Asian Development Research Institute showed an impact of the liquor ban on crime rates. The highest decrease was recorded for kidnapping for ransom (66.6%), followed by murder (28.3%) and dacoity (22.8%).
The Nitish Kumar government had attracted criticism for its draconian prohibition law and for the loss of revenue from the exercise. Recent statements from the state leadership have indicated that there could be a review of the decision.
However, the latest economic survey of Bihar, which published both studies, highlights the positive effects of prohibition. “Both the studies conclude that prohibition has come as a boon, especially for the economically vulnerable population in the society. It was first observed that crime rates have come down significantly in the post-prohibition period, bring substantial peace in the society. The money saved from drinking is now being spent on better consumption and comforts of life,” the economic survey of the state concludes.
The Bihar government approved the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act in April 2016, becoming the fourth state in the country to impose prohibition. The other three states are Gujarat, Nagaland and Lakshadweep.
Armed with more purchasing power, households also pushed up sales of four-wheelers by 30%, tractors by 29% and two and three wheelers by 32%
Bihar: diagnosis of tuberculosis suffers
The ban on liquor in Bihar may have had some positives but it has taken a toll on the diagnosis of tuberculosis in the state. Conducting tests for diagnosing tuberculosis has become an uphill task in Bihar since the ban on liquor was imposed in the state last year, said a senior health department official.
This has prompted the Union health ministry to write to the state health department seeking special exemption for procuring and using alcohol and spirit for uninterrupted diagnostic services. There is a scarcity of ethyl alcohol which is used to conduct such tests in the laboratories, including those in government facilities, according to Jagdish Prasad, director general of health services, ministry of health.
In his letter to the principal secretary of Bihar's health department, Prasad said, “With the alcohol ban imposed in Bihar, the laboratories are facing difficulty in procuring alcohol and this has affected the diagnosis of tuberculosis in the state.“
“In view of the above and in public interest, special exemption for procuring and using alcohol and spirit for uninterrupted diagnostic services under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) is required,“ he said.
The state had last year recorded 64,158 cases of tuberculosis in government hospitals, which is 33 per cent of the total cases there.
Punjab's accident deaths decline 14%
For the first time in a decade, Punjab has managed to bend the fatal road accident curve with a 14% dip in number of lives lost this year, contrary to an annual increase of 6% in the previous years. Ban on sale of liquor on highways, tackling of black spots and steps taken by the local authorities during assembly polls have helped reduce the number of deaths, say officials. According to figures compiled by the state government, 1,765 people died in accidents in the first five months of 2017 while the number was 2,052 for the corresponding period in 2016.Compared to the corresponding period last year, out of 27 police districts and commissionerates, 18 showed decline in accident deaths. These include Faridkot with 62% decrease in fatal accidents, Moga 45%, Ludhiana Rural 38% and Mansa 41%.
Drug use increases after 2015
Bihar reported the highest increase in seizures of opium and hashish among all states between 2015 and 2017 and was next only to Andhra Pradesh in ganja.
In 2017, police seized 28,888 kg of illicit ganja in Bihar, which was more than 2,000 times the 14.4 kg that had been impounded in 2015.
Has prohibition led to a spurt in consumption of drugs in Bihar? The data on narcotics seized by various agencies suggests this may be the case. Bihar reported the highest increase in seizures of opium and hashish among all states between 2015 and 2017 and was next only to Andhra Pradesh when it came to ganja. There was also a significant increase in seizures of heroin in the state.
In 2017, police seized 28,888kg of illicit ganja in Bihar, which was more than 2,000 times the 14.4kg that had been impounded in 2015. Similarly, seizure of 329kg of opium last year was 167 times the seizure in 2015, the year that preceded the state government’s liquor ban, which came into force on October 2, 2016. The state seized 244kg of hashish in 2017 while it had not seen a single seizure of this drug in 2015.
In terms of the percentage increase in seizures of heroin, Bihar again is among the highest, though the quantities involved remain small, as they do in a majority of states.
Data revealed recently in response to a question in the Lok Sabha shows that in terms of the quantity of confiscated ganja, Andhra Pradesh topped the list with about 79,000kg. It was followed by Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, but the increase in these three states between 2015 and 2017 was much lower than in Bihar. Similarly, Punjab, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh reported higher quantities of seized opium than Bihar, but they couldn’t match the scale of the increase in seizures.
In 2015, Bihar did not report a single seizure of hashish. In 2017, it seized about 244kgs and was one among six states reporting the impounding of more than 200kg of the drug, which is also derived from the cannabis plant. UP reported the highest seizures of hashish followed by MP, Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
Only eight states reported the seizure of more than 50kg of heroin. Among them, Gujarat reported the highest. Interestingly, Punjab and Delhi reported a decrease in 2017 as compared to 2015.
The data also shows that in many states there has been a significant increase in seizures of codeine-based cough syrups (CBCS). Delhi reported the seizure of 1.4 lakh bottles of this intoxicant. Tripura and Assam also reported the seizure of more than a lakh bottles each. Interestingly, in 2017, Bihar did not register a single case of CBCS seizure though in 2015 police had confiscated more than 58,000 bottles in the state.
Analysing long-term trends in seizures of ganja, opium, heroin and hashish, an indicator of the prevalence of these drugs, shows that ganja consumption has increased significantly in the country. Between 1999 and 2017, the average of seizures is 1.36 lakh kg a year. Between 2004 and 2015, the seizures were close to this average, but there has been a sharp uptick in the last two years, touching almost 3 lakh kg in 2016 and crossing 3.5 lakh kg in 2017. Over the long term, heroin seizures too have increased significantly, those of opium have remained stable while hashish seizures have dipped.
Legality of prohibition
States could ban public consumption of cigarettes, alcohol: SC
The Times of India Jan 01 2016
W hile upholding the Ke rala government's decision to bar all hotels except five-star establishments from serving liquor, the Supreme Court also ruled that states could ban public consumption of cigarettes and alcohol even if they had not taken any step to restrict production of these two intoxicants, reports Dhananjay Mahapatra.
“Consumption of tobacco and liquor is deleterious to health... Banning public consumption of either cannot be constrained,“ said an SC bench of Justices Vikramajit Sen and S K Singh.
Bihar Courts clogged with 2L prohibition cases/ 2019
The Patna high court pulled up the Bihar government for leaving an already burdened judiciary saddled with more than 2 lakh prohibition-related cases, including nearly 40,000 bail petitions pending with the HC alone.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh directed the state government to file a reply on Friday with details of the infrastructure and mechanism it plans to develop to deal with the growing mountain of prohibition-related cases.
Citing the fact that bail is granted in more than 90% of the cases that come up for hearing, the bench wondered if the authorities had enough evidence for the charges to hold in the majority of cases relating to violations of the 2016 Bihar prohibition law. “In how many such cases has the state government appealed the high court’s orders in the Supreme Court?” the bench asked advocate general Lalit Kishore. The advocate general replied that the state government had moved the SC on several occasions, although he didn’t put a number to it.
The bench also sought to know what action the state government had taken so far to pursue the cases filed in the Supreme Court, challenging the enforcement of prohibition in the state.
The bench was hearing a case linked to an order passed by the single-judge bench of Justice Anil Kumar Upadhyay on August 21, in which the court had expressed concern over the pendency of more than 2 lakh cases related to the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016.
The state-wise position
2019/ Licences of All Bars Cancelled
The Andhra Pradesh government cancelled licences of all existing bars in the state. The excise commissioner has been directed to start the cancellation process as a first step towards total prohibition that chief minister Jaganmohan Reddy had promised ahead of assembly elections.
All existing bars have been served notice to wind up their operations by December 31. New bar licences will be issued from January 1, but the number will be reduced by nearly 50%. Of the 798 existing bars in AP which had licences valid till 2022, only 401 will get licences. The government will refund the existing licence fee proportionately. Licences under the new policy will be granted for two years.
The government directed the excise commissioner to fix the number of bars in each city and town by cutting down the existing figure by 50%. All star hotels and micro-breweries are exempt from the new policy and they would continue to operate on existing licences.
A bar owner told TOI on condition of anonymity that the new policy would be challenged in court. “We have paid licence fees till June 2020 and the licences could be renewed up to 2022. How can the government cancel them in the middle?”
The government had already removed private players from retail operations by taking over the management of liquor shops in October. The number of retail shops has been brought down to 3,500 from 4,380.
The daily business hours of retail liquor shops under the new policy have been reduced by four hours. They will now function from 11 am to 8 pm against 10 am to 11 pm. Bars will function between 11 am and 10 pm from January 1.
‘Bihar Excise Act does not ban possession of liquor’
The Times of India, Jun 02 2016
In Bihar, mere possession of booze is no crime, says HC
The Patna high court has ruled that mere possession of liquor is not illegal as the Bihar Excise Act has provisions for penal action only in cases of “trade and consumption of alcohol“ -an interpretation that could lead to release from jail of suspended JD(U) legislator Manorama Devi, who was arrested after six liquor bottles were found in her house last month. The high court, in its order of May 26, had said the Act was silent over possession of liquor. The interim order was passed by a bench led by acting Chief Justice Iqbal Ahmed Ansari while hearing a petition filed by Ram Sumir Sharma, whose house in Aurangabad was sealed after liquor bottles were seized from his nephew last month. Over 3,000 raids have been conducted and over 100 people are behind bars for possessing booze. The court especially pointed out that a minute reading of Sec 19(4) of the Bihar Excise Act makes it clear that the state government has not “prohibited possession of liquor by anyone“, and unless such a notification is issued, possession of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) would not become an offence punishable un der the Act.
After the HC extended relief to Sharma and directed the government to remove the sealing of his house, suspended MLC Manorama Devi's counsel Y B Giri said he would seek her bail on the same grounds.
“We will inform the court that liquor was there in house before April 5, the day total prohibition was imposed, and there is no guideline in the Act that alcohol in possession should be disposed of,“ Giri said.
Some legal luminaries said the judiciary has pointed out a major lacuna in the prohibition law or at least in its “ill-informed“ implementation. They said the high court has tried to guide the legislature into making an exhaustive law.
While the phone of excise and prohibition minister Abdul Jalil Mastan was switched off, state excise and prohibition commissioner Kunwar Jung Bahadur maintained that possession of liquor is still illegal.
The logic is simple: if there is demand, there will be supply. Which explains why Bihar's bootleggers, undeterred by the arrests of over 20,000 of them since the state's prohibition policy came into effect in April 2016, still continue with their liquor runs. Some half a million litres of smuggled liquor, worth over Rs 40 crore, has been seized so far. Even demonetisation has failed to put the brakes on the lucrative trade. When the cash dried up, liquor dealers shifted to digital payments. Last week, police in Rohtas arrested bootleggers who had transferred Rs 40,000-50,000 in salaries to the bank accounts of their 'home-delivery' staff. Satya Kumar and Shankar Sharma, members of a gang active in Dehri, some 150 km from Patna, had given 'jobs' to 10 men who had motorbikes. Early in the morning, they would deliver liquor smuggled from Jharkhand to clients.
By their own admission, the duo used to make Rs 15-20 lakh a month. Less surprising when you know that liquor in Bihar now sells at four times the price it does in Jharkhand. One of the largest seizures was on January 15 when Bihar's Special Task Force entered Jharkhand's border district of Koderma and stopped a truckload (1,500 cases) of whiskey and rum. The National Health Survey (2010-11) says 9.5 per cent of Bihar's population over the age of 15 consumes alcohol-at least 4.4 million people. The de-addiction centres set up by the Nitish Kumar government in the districts have seen less than 10,000 takers. That 22 of Bihar's 38 districts border UP, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Nepal compounds the problem. Keeping the state 'dry' is a daunting task.
2016 Sept/ HC: Existing Act “draconian;“ State govt. brings new law
Just hours after the Patna high court quashed the Bihar prohibition law on 30 Sept 2016 , causing spirits to rise among tipplers in the state, the Nitish Kumar government announced in the evening it would notify the new Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, already passed by the state legislature, on Gandhi Jayanti, October 2.
Earlier in the day, the HC allowed an appeal by a host of petitioners against the Act that banned the sale and consumption of India-made foreign liquor (IMFL) in the state.
Referring to the harsh provisions in the existing Act, including confiscation of properties of liquor traders and a community fine on villages where liquor was manufactured, the court described the law as “draconian“ and said it “can't be justified in a civilised society“. The division bench of Chief Justice Iqbal Ahmed Ansari and Justice Navaniti Prasad Singh quoted a Supreme Court ruling in its order. However the state government said the court order would not stop the new law coming into effect from Sunday .“There's no doubt about enforcement of the new law,“ Bihar principal additional advocate general Lalit Kishore said. The HC order, Bihar principal additional advocate general Lalit Kishore explained to the CM and senior state officials, struck down the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, which made trade and consumption of IMFL across the state illegal since April 5.“The court order has termed only one Section 19(4) of the previous Act `ultra vires'. It does not say anything about the revised Act passed by both Houses of the state legislature. It is already an Act. It will be notified on October 2,“ Kishore told TOI.
He said the two Acts are different. “Only one section (19-4) of the annulled Act empowered the state government to enforce prohibition. But the new law is entirely about prohibition,“ he said.
[Seven days later The SC stayed the Patna high court order striking down a six-monthold Bihar government notification banning the sale and consumption of liquor in the state.]
2 Oct 15: new Act is stricter still
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar enforced the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 in the state on 2 Oct 2016 two days after the Patna high court had struck down the previous prohibition law calling it draconian.
The new Act has harsher provisions like arrest of all adult members of a family if liquor is recovered from a house. Associations who had challenged the previous law are likely to oppose the new Act also in the HC.
However, Kumar kept a window open for amending the new Act. “The winter session of state legislature is approaching. If suggestions are given with positive commitment to prohibition, then they are welcome,“ Kumar said after the special meeting of the cabinet.
Rejecting claims that the new Act is an extension of the previous excise Act introduced on April 5, Kumar said, “The previous Act was an extension of an amendment of the excise Act of 1915 and it paved way for imposition of prohibition through delegating powers to the executive.However, the new Act is a pure prohibition Act in itself.“
Speaking on the provisions which the Patna HC termed draconian in its order, the CM said, “If liquor is found in home, then who should be held responsible? If someone co mes drunk from neighbouring Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal or Nepal and creates nuisance here, then who should be held responsible?
Those having reservations against such norms should give their suggestions.“ Defending the strict stand of his government on prohibition, Kumar said, “The SC has stated that consumption and trade of liquor is not a fundamental right. Besides, directive principles of state policy also state that it is the responsibility of the government to dissuade consumption of liquor.“
Alcohol in ayurvedic, homeopathic medicines
Patna HC quashes Bihar ban
The Patna HC qu ashed the Bihar government's notification banning use of alcohol for manufacturing ayurvedic and homeopathic medicines in view of prohibition in force in the state. The state government, through a notification dated March 17, 2016 had denied issuing further licences to manufacture ayurvedic and homeopathic medicines having alcohol content.
1,000,000 litres of illegal liquor seized in 2016. Bihar's prohibition laws prescribe the death penalty for manufacturers, suppliers and sellers of hooch. But even this hasn't stopped career criminals from taking up bootlegging. Last year's haul of illegal liquor-510,000 litres of IMFL (Indian made foreign liquor), 455,000 litres of country liquor, 10,000 litres of toddy and over 12,000 litres of beer-offers a measure of the problem
584 raids a day -Cops and excise officials in the state conducted 213,000 raids in the past year to break up bootlegging networks and seize illegal stocks of liquor. This led to over 44,000 arrests. These numbers indicate a staggering average of 584 raids in Bihar every day last year, or 25 raids every hour. Ending bootlegging appears to be a top priority for cops in the state, but even their evident zeal has not achieved this target.
11,400 km long human chain- 'the world's longest'-formed by the people of Bihar on January 21. Nitish Kumar led the event to drive home his message of prohibition and give people a chance to express solidarity with his social aims. The exercise involved over 30 million people. Major political parties, including the BJP, also participated.
4,000 crore (approx.) estimated worth of liquor smuggled into the state in the past year, of which liquor worth over Rs 100 crore was seized. It is evident that bootlegging has edged past gunsmuggling to become the crime of choice for Bihar's underworld.
2018: 1st-time offence made bailable
People caught the first time drinking liquor in Bihar will be allowed to go free after payment of a Rs 50,000 fine, or will spend three months in jail, according to a Bihar government proposal to amend the state’s prohibition law. The proposal was cleared by the state cabinet on Wednesday.
The state cabinet approved the government’s proposal to table an amendment bill in the state assembly during the monsoon session (from July 20) to make changes to the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016.
Bihar advocate general Lalit Kishore told TOI on Wednesday that a person caught for the first time drinking, or drunk, would be set free on payment of Rs 50,000 as penalty, failing which s/he would face three months in jail. The first liquor offence would also be bailable and non-cognisable. At present, it is a non-bailable offence.
Kishore said the amendments would apply even to pending cases and convictions. “A first-time offender will come out of jail if the person has been in prison for over three months. Those imprisoned for less than three months can also come out either on payment of Rs 50,000 or after being granted bail,” Kishore said.
Kishore said the amendments would also reduce the quantum of punishment. “Second-time and subsequent offenders will be liable to two to five years in jail,” he said.
Regarding punishment for manufacturing and trading in liquor, Kishore said: “The first such offence will invite imprisonment for a minimum of two years and a minimum of 10 years for second and subsequent offences.”
2018: dilution of prohibition
House OKs Bill To Dilute Legislation
The state assembly on Monday passed the Bihar Prohibition and Excise (Amendment) Bill, 2018 amid a walkout by RJD, Congress and CPI (ML). The amendments to the 2016 Act are aimed at relaxing the “draconian” provisions in order to prevent its misuse and make the quantum of punishment proportionate to the nature of offence. Earlier, the prohibition law provided for a five-year prison term, in addition to a Rs 1 lakh fine, for those consuming liquor or caught in an inebriated state. Now, firsttime offenders will have to pay a fine of Rs 50,000, failing which, they will have to undergo a prison term of three months. Besides, the offence has also been made bailable.
Repeat offenders will be punished with a prison term of not less than a year and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh. However, those causing disturbance or violence in an inebriated state or facilitating consumption of liquor on their premises will continue to attract a prison term not lower than five years and a penalty of not less than Rs 1 lakh.
Those guilty of manufacture, storage and illegal trade in liquor earlier attracted a maximum life-term imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh. As per the amended law, the first offence of this nature will be punishable with a prison sentence of at least five years and a fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh, while subsequent offences will be punishable by at least 10 years in jail and up to Rs 5 lakh fine.
The amendment also removed the provision to impose collective fines and externing habitual offenders. It also removed a provision for booking all adult members of a household if liquor is found in the house. CM Nitish Kumar said interested groups launched “motivated” campaign against prohibition, invoking the number of people imprisoned and the loss of revenue to the state. The revenue loss was Rs5,000 crore during 2015-16 and Rs1,000 crore in the next fiscal, but people saved around Rs10,000 crore annually with which they purchased other items that brought back tax returns to the government, Nitish clarified.
RJD, Congress and CPI (ML) members had earlier walked out of the House in protest against the rejection of their demand for a discussion on the drought situation that has been building up in the state due to scanty rainfall in 2018.
Daman- Gujarat should merge: HC
The Gujarat high court suggested that the Centre should merge the Union territory of Daman with the state of Gujarat so that prohibition laws can be implemented effectively in the dry state.
Prohibition has not worked well in dry Gujarat, the HC observed. Daman is a big hub outside the state where liquor is available in abundance and large quantities are coming into the state from the Union territory , it said.
“It is high time the central government considered denotifying Daman as a part of the Union territory and made it a part of the state of Gujarat so as to make the Prohibition Act applicable,“ the HC said.
Justice J B Pardiwala rejected quashing petitions by 11 liquor sellers from Daman who were booked under prohibition laws. Liquor purchased from them by bootleggers had been seized in Gujarat.
Ban remains popular
Despite a Rs 10,000 crore revenue hit, the ban remains popular here.
In 2008, then chief minister Narendra Modi was keen on relaxing prohibition in Gujarat. He felt the state would benefit from an increase in excise and tourism revenues and the money would also augment his ambitious development schemes
But as unlikely as it may seem now, two of Modi's ministers, Amit Shah and Anandiben Patel, opposed the move then. Prohibition may have famously bred corruption in the state and among a section of its political class- liquor is available like dial-a-pizza in the state-but both leaders looked at the benefits. It was the main reason for women feeling so secure in Gujarat and also the relatively peaceful life the labour class led. Modi had to settle for something halfway-easing liquor permits for outsiders and allowing it in the state's SEZs.
Gujarat's coffers take a massive annual hit from prohibition. The direct revenue loss is estimated at Rs 10,000 crore. The absence of alcohol has also led to sluggish tourist arrivals. Even roping in Amitabh Bachchan as brand ambassador hasn't boosted numbers. "Gujarat has 25 per cent of India's coastline, but has failed to develop a single beach for tourism...singularly due to prohibition," says Dinesh Hinduja, an Ahmedabad-based businessman and fervent anti-prohibition campaigner. The worst effect of the policy is the culture of hypocrisy and guilt it has bred. It is a convenient handle for people to settle personal scores by tipping off a publicity-hungry police force.
The state government, however, seems quite happy with the situation. As a government source put it, "One good it has done is that tipplers drink on the sly and refrain from public brawls for fear of attracting the police. This has a positive effect on law and order and women's safety issues." Voices against prohibition are still feeble. The state's ban on the bottle is likely to continue for a long time.
Re-issue of liquor permits: conditions added/ 2018
Having tightened liquor laws in 2016, the Gujarat state government is now readying to play a strict parent. After suspending issuance and renewal of about 42,000 liquor permits allowed on health grounds in March this year, the prohibition department is set to recommend de-addiction in the fresh guidelines likely to be announced in the next few weeks. As per the new rules, applicants seeking third renewal will have to undergo a 15 day long treatment to quit drinking.
“The move is aimed at deterring people from seeking permit on false health grounds. Permit will be renewed only if a de-addiction centre certifies that the applicant cannot do without alcohol,” said a senior prohibition officer.
A five-fold hike in the permit fee — from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 — has also been proposed. The last fee hike was effected in 1999 when the charges were raised from Rs 100 to Rs 1,000.
As per the existing laws, district civil surgeon is the sole authority to issue medical certificate for granting liquor permits on health grounds that cover 14 illnesses. “We now propose to have six new zones for medical checkups in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Surat, Gandhinagar and Bhavnagar. In each zone, a threedoctor committee headed by regional medical director will be formed to approve applications,” said a senior state home department officer.
It needs mention that health liquor permits constitute 60% of about 70,000 permits granted in Gujarat. Permits granted to visitors, tourist (foreign) groups and ex-army men are some of the other categories under which licence to drink is issued.
Prohibition department officers said the draft notification for new guidelines has been sent to the home department on Wednesday. “The home department would forward it to the legal department for vetting. The procedure is expected to take at least 15 days,” said a senior government officer.
State home minister Pradipsinh Jadeja said: "The draft has not reached my office. However, we are hopeful of issuing the new guidelines shortly."
Focus is on earnings from liquor
A shocking high
Telangana is unwaveringly focused on earnings from liquor, oblivious to any adverse impact the policy might have.
Telangana, contrary to the clamour for temperance in other states, is looking to raise its revenues from liquor sales. At the start of 2016-17, excise minister T. Padma Rao boasted about the improved revenues of Rs 12,144 crore in 2015-16, with the target for 2016-17 at Rs 14,161 crore. The prohibition and excise department, perhaps a misnomer in the current scenario, is set to top up the state's kitty with a revenue growth of 20 per cent.
Strangely, the state is pursuing this strategy for resource mobilisation even though the Finance Commission had at the time of Telangana's birth, two years ago, pointed out that it is a revenue-surplus state. It has its reasons, though-the many innovative welfare schemes launched need more financial investments, and there's no better way to raise these monies.
A liberal approach to the production, distribution, sale and regulation of liquor is in place, apparently part of the plan to project Hyderabad as a global city. So, among the slew of concessions, bars are allowed to remain open till midnight. The state has relaxed norms to set up bars from October 1, which will add 40 more bars in Hyderabad and another 20 in the districts taking the total to 874. The fee to open a bar has been raised from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 40 lakh in the city and to Rs 35 lakh in the districts. The government hopes to net Rs 3,500 crore through licence fees from F&B outlets. "Ours is a proactive policy considering all factors including revenues, changing lifestyles, and Hyderabad emerging as a global destination," says excise commissioner R.V. Chandravadan, about the new policy.
A pub culture is also being promoted, 20 micro breweries have so far got permits to serve beer on tap and six new distilleries are on the anvil even as capacities are being added to existing facilities. At the same time, Telangana has doubled the fee it collects from the liquor industry, from one rupee to two rupees a litre.
Industry sources complain that while Telangana has increased its liquor revenues, manufacturers are being denied their due-there has been no revision in prices since 2012. The state also seems unworried, unlike many others, that this 'liberal' approach to the consumption of alcohol could become a handicap, vis-a-vis votebank politics. Indeed, on a recent visit to the US, the uninhibited Padma Rao even posed for photographs holding bottles in a mall.
Social activist V. Lakshma Reddy is troubled by those developments. "Telangana has even ignored an SC mandate that all liquor shops within 100 metres of the highway be shifted to internal roads by December 31 last year to discourage drunken driving," he laments. The impact has been alarming. Drunken driving is on the rise though the police are active with their breathalysers, car seizures and fines. "While 55,000-odd cases were booked in 2015, we have booked 2.67 lakh cases of drunk driving in the first five months of this year," says joint transport commissioner B. Venkateshwarlu. Indeed, it took a horrifying accident on July 1 in which three people, three generations of a family, were killed when their car was hit by another with a few inebriated youth (including one at the wheel without a licence) for the government to wake up.
"There is need for a stern law to punish drunk drivers," says P. Radhika, mother of the youngest victim Ramya, 10, who is still recovering from a fractured thigh and requires plastic surgery on her face. Consequently, the excise authorities have closed a Thank God It's Friday outlet, while city bars keep breathalysers at hand to caution tipplers driving in an inebriated state. "We have been orally cautioned about cancellation of bar licences if we don't follow guidelines to ensure 'safe drinking'," says a bar owner. He says it's embarrassing to ask patrons who among them is staying off liquor as a 'designated driver', or ask about taxi bookings, or, worse still, asking tipplers to show proof of age.
No bail if caught taking more than 1 liquor bottle into UP
The Uttar Pradesh government has uncorked a series of changes on sale of liquor in the state, the latest on Thursday bringing down business time for booze shops by four hours.
But a tweak that will concern people in NCR the most is an amendment the government made to the liquor law late last year to stop out the practice of buying alcohol at cheaper rates from neighbouring Delhi.
The state government had in September last year made an amendment to the UP Excise Act, 1910, to bring down the import of liquor from other states. The new law makes it a non-bailable offence to carry along more than one sealed bottle of liquor from other neighbouring states and carries a maximum punishment of five years in jail along with a fine of Rs 5,000 or ten times the revenue the state would have earned from the bottles, whichever is higher.
The rules, however, do not apply if the bottles are open.
“A person is permitted to bring only a single unit of alcohol at a time into UP from other states and that too only for consumption and not sale. If more than one bottle being imported is found with the seal intact, it will be presumed it is for sale and the charges of liquor smuggling can be invoked,” Ghaziabad district excise officer Gyanendra Tripathy said.
It is common practice for people in Noida and Ghaziabad to bring along liquor from neighbouring Delhi as alcohol is cheaper in the capital. Many fliers returning from the IGI airport also buy their liquor there.
On Thursday, the UP government announced that liquor shops in the state would now open only at noon and close at 10pm. The earlier business hours for liquor outlets were from 9am to 11pm. The slashing of the business hours got the thumbs up from various residents’associations.
“The intention behind reducing the hours for retail sale of liquor is noble. Residents will now be spared the hooliganism created by drunkards in the morning. In any case, liquor sales usually pick up in the evening. However, strict vigilance is required to prohibit purchase of liquor from Delhi, particularly from vends in the border areas that open before noon,” said Vinay Mittal, president of the Kaushambi Apartment RWAs.
Another section of residents had a different version. They said the reduced hours could lead to law and order problems and brawls oitside liquor outlets.
“The move is welcome. Some people line up at liquor vends early in the morning and squander their earnings on alcohol. But customers are likely to purchase alcohol from the several outlets on the Delhi border and bring it to Ghaziabad for consumption,” said KK Sehgal, a resident of Kaushambi.