The Legality Of Banning Consumption And Sale Of Alcohol In Some Indian States

The Legality Of Banning Consumption And Sale Of Alcohol In Some Indian States

Aditya Awasthi


This Blog is written by Aditya Awasthi from Asian Law College, NoidaEdited by Ujjawal Vaibhav Agrahari.



The demand for alcohol is always high in India even if the price is rising. While some people consume alcohol occasionally, some people in India consume alcohol every day. As a lot of people consume alcohol, there are various laws regarding liquor in India.  Alcohol is something whose demand and sale do not fall but can rise only with time. There are various laws regarding alcohol in India and there is no uniformity in these at all. The subject of alcohol is included in the State List under the seventh schedule of the Constitution of India. Thus, the law which governs the sale and consumption of alcohol varies from State to State.  License is needed to sell the alcohol and in some particular states, so are the consumers. Usually liquor stores, pubs, clubs, discos, bars, hotels, and restaurants are licensed to sell alcohol.

In addition to this, beaches and houseboats may obtain the license to sell alcohol to tourists. The sellers are required to hold a license to sell alcohol, otherwise, the selling of alcohol is illegal and prohibited. As per the Indian Constitution, Item number 51 in the state list, which deals with “alcohol for human consumption”, entrusts the state legislature with the power to draft rules governing the business of liquor in the state. At the same time, the Constitution (Article 47 – State to raise the level of nutrition, the standard of living and improve the state of public health) also affixes a high degree of accountability on the state to ensure that drinks or drugs which are injurious to human health be prohibited. Every state has its own set of laws that decide various facets related to drinking like legal age, excise policy, conditions for providing license, grounds for prohibition, etc.


States/UT Legal Drinking Ages States/UT Legal Drinking Ages
Andhra Pradesh 21 Madhya Pradesh 18
Arunachal Pradesh 21 Meghalaya 25
Assam 25 Mizoram Illegal
Bihar 21 Orissa 21
Chandigarh 25 Puducherry 18
Delhi 25 Punjab 25
Goa 18 Rajasthan 18
Gujarat Illegal Sikkim 18
Haryana 18 Tamil Nadu 21
Himachal Pradesh 18 Uttar Pradesh 18
Jammu and Kashmir 21 Uttrakhand 21
Jharkhand 21 West Bengal 21
Karnataka 21 Manipur Illegal
Kerala 21 Lakshadweep Illegal
Maharashtra 25

In spite of legal restrictions, alcohol consumption in India has risen over 55% over a period of 20 years (according to OECD figures). The affordability of alcohol is too low that even people who are not sound economically can consume it and the addiction is such that it corrupts minds. The direct result is suicides, family disruptions, and other women-related crimes. Alcohol consumption has become a habit of youth and it acts as a compulsion according to the traits of young people in India. Many youngsters consume alcohol due to peer pressure. Drinking occasionally is good and can be countered with the societal laws but too much drinking not only is bad for health but also gives a route to crimes endeavoring in the criminal minds. The increasing western culture is affecting Indian society at large and some political organizations want to lower the drinking age which will directly influence the crime rates.

These are the states which are known as ‘DRY STATES’. The sale and consumption of alcohol are banned in over 6 states of India which totally restricts the sale, consumption, and even possession of the liquor.

1) Bihar {Bihar Excise (Amendment) Bill 2016 Section 19(4)}

2) Gujarat {Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2009}

3) Lakshadweep {Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2009}

4) Manipur (The Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act of1991)

5) Nagaland (Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act, 1989)


To understand the laws concerning the alcohol business in India, we take a look at these laws in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Delhi as examples.

Uttar Pradesh

Uttar Pradesh Excise Act 1910 governs the alcohol business in India’s largest state. The legal age is  21 years, with a penalty of Rs 1000 for violations.

The act also empowers the government to classify liquor into two categories — county and foreign. Obtaining a license from the Collector/District Magistrate is a prerequisite for the sale, manufacture, and import of liquor in that particular district. For more than one district, the license shall be obtained from the state’s Excise Commissioner.

Section 23 of the Act prohibits the employment of anyone under the age of 21 years at a place where liquor is being sold and consumed. Violation attracts a meager penalty of Rs. 1000. Women can be employed only with written permission from the Excise Commissioner and at places where only foreign liquor is being sold and consumed.

The most important part of the Act is Section 37A, which specifies the grounds for prohibition of sale/import/export/transport/possession of liquor. Under the Act, the government can prohibit on the following grounds:

• The seat of the government (an area from where the government operates, usually a capital city)

• The seat of learning (where educational institutes such as schools, colleges or universities are present)

• Hill area

• Industrial area

• Lowered levels of public health or nutrition of the local population

• Place of worship or pilgrimage (this was recently added through an amendment by the current UP government)

• Any other reason which the government finds to be material in the interest of the public at large

As per the Act, if anyone selling or manufacturing or importing or exporting or transporting or storing liquor in contravention to the provisions of the Act shall face imprisonment of three months, which is extendable to three years and a fine of Rs 5,000, extendable to Rs 10,000.

Madhya Pradesh 

The Madhya Pradesh Excise Act of 1915 also provides for the legal drinking age at 21 years and two categories, country, and IMFL. The Act makes licenses mandatory for carrying out any kind of liquor business in the state. The Act completely bans employment of females and males under 21 years where liquor is being sold.

Another interesting provision in the Act is the prohibition on advertising relating to liquor in the state. Section 23-A clearly says that “no cinema or place of entertainment shall show any advertisement relating to liquor.” Similarly, any notice, wrapper, circular, label, or other kinds of displays are also not allowed. Making oral or non-oral announcements is also prohibited under the Act. This prohibition also applies to newspapers, leaflets, brochures, books, or any other kind of publication. On violation, imprisonment up to six months or a fine which may extend to Rs. 2000 or both can be imposed.

While liquor and tobacco advertisements are prohibited across the country, some states have tweaked or modified the laws. The Delhi law, for example, allows advertisements related to responsible drinking.

Liquor licenses can be canceled or suspended by the government on the following grounds:

• In case of breach of any condition in the license

• In case of nonpayment of duty

• If the license holder is convicted of any cognizable and non-bailable offence

• If the license holder or his workers or anybody acting on his behalf is convicted for crimes under this Act or any other Act in force like Indian Penal Code, Dangerous Drugs Act, etc.

• On request of the licensee

For any kind of unlawful manufacture or possession or transport of liquor, the Act under Section 34 provides for imprisonment which may extend up to one year, and a fine which shall not be less than Rs 500 and extendable up to Rs 5000.

Also, a person convicted for the second time under the same provision of the Act shall be liable for imprisonment of not less than two months and extendable up to 24 months and a fine of not less than Rs 2000 extendable up to Rs 10,000.


Delhi Excise Act 2009 governs the alcohol business in the national capital and Deputy Commissioner, Excise Administration, Delhi is legally authorized to supervise and regulate the alcohol business. Violation of the legal age of 21 years can attract a fine of Rs 10,000.

Anyone caught doing illegal liquor business in Delhi, faces imprisonment of six months, extendable up to three years, and a fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh.

The Act totally prohibits the employment of any person less than 21 years or have the contagious disease at the place of selling liquor. Violations will attract imprisonment of up to three months or a fine of up to Rs 50,000 or both.

The Act confers extra power to the Magistrate for crimes related to liquor. As per Section 55, a Magistrate can impose any kind of enhanced (in excess of his/her original powers under the Act) penalties on the violator except life imprisonment or imprisonment for more than six years. In the case of a second conviction under the Act, the quantum of punishment is double the original punishment.

One of the key highlights of the Act is the compounding powers (power to settle minor offences) it grants to the Assistant Commissioner of the excise administration. Under Section 57, a person who is suspected of having committed a minor offense may apply for compounding of offense. On receiving such application, the Assistant Commissioner has to apply his/her discretion for compounding the offense on payment of a sum of money known as compounding fee as compensation.

Any offence other than adulteration, sale of non-duty paid liquor, illicit manufacture/sale/possession/transport, rendering denatured spirit for human consumption, mixing of noxious substances, tampering sealed bottles, and sale to minors will be treated as a minor offence.

Under Section 79, the Excise Commissioner has the full right to regulate any kind of advertisements regarding liquor. Although the Act provides discretionary powers to the commissioner to allow any such advertisement that is educative and promotes responsible drinking


State of Tamil Nadu Rep. By Its Secretary Home, Prohibition & Excise Dept. & Ors v. K. Balu[1]

The Supreme Court of India has ordered that” from 1st of April 2017 there would be a ban on the sale of liquor within a distance of 500 meters from any national or state highways. The apex court modified its order stating an exemption within 220 meters of any highway for small towns or municipalities where the population of people will be less than 20,000.” In the order, the Honorable Court has clearly stated that any hotel, bar, or pub serving alcohol will be included in the ban. The Supreme Court bench headed by CJI Thakur, Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao, has said.

Why was the ban ordered?

The order of ban of liquor near national and state highways by the apex court is focused on tackling the rising risk of drunk driving as well as a step for improving road safety conditions in India. The Honorable Court has stated that “there are alarming statistics showing drunk driving-related accidents and deaths, and said the order is passed in the overwhelming public interest”.

This order was passed by Supreme Court following a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which was filed by, Harman Sidhu, an activist based in Chandigarh who has fought for strict laws for road safety in India. After meeting with an accident Sidhu was paralyzed neck-down when he was 26 years old.


The crime of drunk driving is enumerated under Section 185 of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988. A person can be charged under one of any two conditions:

1) If the alcohol level in his/her blood is found to be more than 30 mg per 100 ml, detected by a breath analyzer or

2) The person is under the influence of intoxicants to such an extent that it makes him incapable of exercising proper control of the vehicle.

For the first time, the Act provides for imprisonment which may extend to six months or a fine of up to Rs 10,000 or both.

For the second offense, the imprisonment may extend to two years or a fine of Rs 15,000 or both.


With the analysis of liquor laws in the various states of India, it can be concluded that the state governments are attempting to get the crime rate and the hazardous consequences in control. And as a result of this attempt, the permitted age for consuming alcohol differ in the various states. Through these laws, states make efforts to save the future of youth and the next generation of the country. The laws made with the purpose to lower the rate of consumption of alcohol are violated rigorously. People who are habitual drinkers tend to avoid the state liquor laws to drink liquor. For example, in Delhi, the government imposed a fine on consuming liquor in public and people, who consume alcohol, do so breaking rules and pay fines. In spite of not consuming alcohol, they break laws to consume alcohol.

It is very clear to all that in India, like any other law, liquor law has also been taken for granted. Any law regarding liquor which is meant to get alcohol consumption in control gets avoided instantly in India and people always find a way to break the law like in the DRY STATES where liquor is prohibited, there are sellers available in states who sell liquor illegally and people buy it illegally. There are even more unlicensed sellers of liquor than licensed ones. The states where one has to possess a license to buy alcohol, people who don’t possess them.

All the laws regarding liquor selling, purchasing, and consuming are violated by people and the strength of such people is huge. It shows the condition of liquor laws implementation in India which is absolutely poor. It is very crucial for the nation to ensure that the legal drinking age should be strictly followed and there should be diligent participation of the law enforcement agencies towards this. There is a need for laws with strict punishments to make sure the implementation of those laws as well.


[1]. State of Tamil Nadu Rep. By Its Secretary Home, Prohibition & Excise Dept. & Ors v. K. Balu, 2017 2 SCC 281

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