Right to Liquor: A Fundamental Right?

Author: Pragati Singh


Liquor has been used in the Indian subcontinent for centuries. Legislation relating to revenue collection and management and the regulation of the production, seizure, sale and distribution of liquor was incorporated into regulation 1878. Alcohol is a major source of income in India, as it has one of the largest sources of alcohol markets around the sub-continent. It is a product with a demand in the market. The legal situation is very different from its market as there is no national liquor policy in the country. There are legal implications that vary from state to state regardless of age of drinking or prices. The legalization of alcohol as a commodity for the broader national sector requires a policy on intermediate alcohol consumption and the implementation of various regions.


What is Liquor? Liquor is a necessity and its sales do not fall but can increase over time. In India, demand for alcohol remains high, even though prices are rising. While some people occasionally consume it, there are others in India who consumes alcohol every day. There are various laws regarding alcohol in India as many people drink alcohol. The rules are not the same in every province. It varies from state to state; this variation is due to the fact that the subject of alcohol is included in the list of countries under the Seventh Schedule (article 246 and article 47) of the Constitution of India. The Liquor Law in India lists the legal age for drinking in India, the places where liquor can be sold and many other things.

The seller is required to have a license to sell liquor, otherwise it will be considered illegal. Often, alcohol can be sold in liquor stores, bars, bars, discos, hotels, and licensed restaurants. Apart from these places, some beaches and homes also have some liquor licenses. Liquor consumption in India is banned in many states such as Bihar, Gujarat, Lakshadweep’s union territory and Nagaland. There are many states that allow to consume liquor but it has certain fixed age limit.

Do citizens have a fundamental right to consume liquor?

It has been announced by the Bihar government that a complete ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol with effect from April 5, 2016. This is the same day that the Supreme Court refused to please the PIL seeking a total ban on alcohol consumption across the country.

Right to privacy and reasonable limits On August 24, 2017, the nine-judge Constitutional Court bench held that the right to privacy is a fundamental right and is protected under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The Indian Attorney General, while challenging the popularity of the right to privacy as a fundamental right, relied on litigation that there is no fundamental right to trade in alcohol, implying that there is often no absolute right to privacy.

Rejecting such fears, the Supreme Court had made it clear that the declaration of a right could not be avoided if there was “a good constitutional reason for doing so. It was determined that the State could always enact legislation to limit the cost of monitoring and enforcing state interests, as it could while blocking other fundamental rights:

There are three fold-tests of:

  • Legitimacy, which gives effect to the rule of law.
  • A requirement, defined in terms of the statutory purpose of the state.
  • Equilibrium that ensures reasonable alignment between objects and thus accepted means of recognition.

Legal age for drinking

Patterns of alcohol consumption vary by age, religion, education, type of drink and other social factors. The pattern of use also varies between different cultures and societies, and there have been major changes in the last two decades. The law on alcohol is at the bottom of the federal government and is therefore the subject matter most highlighted. Countries and UTs across the country have different laws on alcohol use.

Here, legal age  varies from state to state:

  • At the age of 18 states which consume liquor are Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Kerala, Sikkim and Pondicherry.
  • At the age of 21states which consume liquor are Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Jammu Kashmir, Jharkhand, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
  • At the age of 25 states which consume liquor are Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Meghalaya and Punjab.

Prohibition of liquor in India or commonly known as Dry States of India:

Prohibition is an act or practice of prohibition by law; in particular the term refers to the prohibition of the manufacture, storage (either in barrels or bottles), transport, sale, handling and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Prohibition term is used to refer to a time when prohibition is enforced.

There are four states where consumption of liquor is totally banned named as Bihar, Gujarat, Nagaland and Mizoram as well as in Lakshadweep’s Union Territory.

There are some special days on which sale of liquor is prohibited such as Republic Day (26 January), Independence Day (15 August) and Gandhi Jayanti (2 October) are usually dry days throughout India as they are considered as national holiday so all countries should celebrate this day like a DRY DAY.

Here, is some legislation enacted by several states where liquor is totally ban:

Bombay Prohibition Act (Gujarat Amendment Act) 2019

Between 1948 and 1950 the Bombay State was banned, and again in 1958. Gujarat has enormous legislation banning the manufacture, storage, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages. The law has been in force since the Bombay state was divided into Maharashtra and Gujarat states on May 1, 1960. The Bombay Prohibition Act of 1949 still applies in Gujarat province, but in Maharashtra there is a state licensing of vendors and traders. Gujarat is India’s only state-sanctioned corporation for the production and sale of synthetic liquor leading to deaths.

Bihar Excise Amendment Act 2016

This is the law of the Bihar Legislative Assembly that prohibits the production, packaging, distribution, collection, acquisition, sale, or use of any kind of liquor, intoxicants including alcoholic beverages. The Act prescribes a strong penalty that includes a price penalty for those who make or sell illegal alcohol, done on the 26th December 2015. It imposes a total ban on the production, packaging, distribution, collection, handling, purchase, sale or consumption of any type of alcohol, intoxicating something, or something illegal. Under this act no license shall be issued to any type of brewery or bottled plant in the province. It also imprisons for up to 10 years for violating the provisions of this law.

Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act 1989

Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland are known as arid regions, because in all three provinces, the sale and consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden. In 1989, Nagaland was the first to introduce the ban, under pressure from the Influential Mothers’ Association. After that The Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act, 1989 (NLTP Act) banned the sale and consumption of alcohol in 1989. Congress has called this a “complete failure” and called for the lifting of the ban. In Mizoram, the State became “dry” with the passage of the Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act in 1995.

Lakshadweep’s Prohibition Regulation 1979

Lakshadweep is the only union territory that prohibits the sale and consumption of alcohol. The Lakshadweep Prohibition Regulation Act, 1979 prohibits the import, export, transport, possession and manufacture of any alcoholic beverages in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep

Case related to Right to Liquor:

Ugar Sugar Works limited v. Delhi Administration

Despite the fact that Ugar Sugar Works Limited v. Delhi Administration, it was stated that Article 14 would still apply if the appropriate restrictions imposed on the liquor trade were found to be unreasonable, unreasonable or unreasonable. In 2017 the hotel industry suffered heavy losses following a Supreme Court order banning the sale of alcohol within 500 meters of any national and provincial highways. The Court has reversed its injunction ordering a 220-meter exemption from any major city or municipal highway where there will be fewer than 20,000 people.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Khehar said:

  • No one is entitled to a license
  • There is no fundamental right to run a liquor business because as a matter of constitutional doctrine, Article 19 (1) (g) does not promote the trade in liquor which is considered res extra commercium” (which is naturally dangerous).


Alcohol is a part of many people’s lives and is a source of livelihood in our country. A complete abstinence from alcohol would be an absurd step for any government or individual. There are necessary regulations to prevent the production, distribution and use of certain dangerous and even excessive alcoholic beverages. However, there must be a process of acceptance in our society. Although we may not drink alcohol, we need to respect other people’s decisions to some degree. There is a need for a comprehensive national liquor policy such as the U.S. 

There should be proper enforcement of the rules and certain restrictions required for social stability. Laws designed to reduce alcohol abuse are severely violated. People who are addicted to alcohol often avoid the state’s alcohol-drinking laws. For example, in Delhi the government imposed a fine on the public drink and the people, who drank alcohol, did so in violation of the rules and paid a fine. Although they do not drink alcohol, they break the rules for drinking alcohol. It is very important for the nation to ensure that the legal drinking age must be strictly adhered to and that there must be active participation by law enforcement agencies. There is a need for laws with stricter penalties to ensure the implementation of those laws as well. Once these measures are implemented, then there can be a stable legal stability and also a natural control.

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