Prohibition Act following State Reorganization Act
On 1st November 1956, the States Reorganization Act sought to dissolve the state of Bombay and divide it into two states that were based on linguistic divisions. The Marathi-speaking population fell into the state of Maharashtra, while the Gujarati-speaking population became part of the state of Gujarat. Following this in 1960, a prohibition policy came into force in Gujarat which was aimed to be imposed with strict norms, however, foreign tourists and visitors were made exceptions by granting them a liquor permit. Subsequently, in 2017, the Gujarat Prohibition (Amendment) Act was passed to make the manufacture, procurement, sale, and transportation of liquor illegal. The Act declared Gujarat a ‘dry state’ which is violated and would immediately subject the violator to imprisonment will exceed up to ten years and a fine. Gujarat is the only state in India to have a death sentence for making and selling homemade alcohol that causes deaths.
Grounds for challenging the Act
The act has been challenged on many grounds however the court’s stand has been firm keeping with the objective of the act. The act was contended to breach the “Right to Privacy”, based on which it was challenged. The state has no role or control in determining or imposing what an individual in a particular state can or cannot consume, it is therefore an unjustified limitation on one’s physical and mental autonomy. The other basis for challenging the act is “Manifest Arbitrariness”. The petitioner raised the argument that there did not exist any ‘intelligible differentia’ while creating a separate class to divide the people who are permitted to drink and who are not.
The government of Gujarat disagreeing with these contentions brought to light the increasing domestic violence issue against women and children. According to a study, alcohol tends to raise one’s temperament which causes a person to act violently. The government believes that since the state must protect its population from such social evils it is justified in implementing an alcohol ban. However, this reason lacks scientific backing and is not in pace with the current scenario of the societal mentality. According to the National Family Health Survey (2005-06), 51% of men took pride in subjecting their wives to violence. At this point, the state of Bihar did not ban liquor. On the other hand, in the state of Gujarat which prohibited liquor, 74% of men abused their wives.
The black market for liquor in Gujarat
The current situation in the state of Gujarat actively demonstrates that Gujarat is anything but a dry state. Due to the absence of governmental regulation, there is room for a booming underground liquor trade attributed to prohibition. In the instance of Bihar, it was noted that there was a rise in drug addiction a year after prohibition became law.
While the authorities increased the difficulty of obtaining alcohol, it is not feasible to eliminate its availability. More than Rs. 300 crore worth of liquor has been discovered by local authorities within the last two years, adding to this as per the National Drug Use Survey in 2019 by AIIMS, 4.3% of the Gujarati population depict alcohol dependence. The one fact that the lawmakers of such a prohibition act failed to overlook is that liquor prohibition is not going to restrict the demand, rather it creates an overwhelming thrill and desperation for such substances, just like a child’s fondness for a toy he cannot have. On-demand delivery of alcohol is provided by “folders,” small-time bootleggers who pick up the bottle from a larger bootlegger (who functions as a larger distributor) and bring it to the recipient’s house or another convenient place. This leads to more alcohol consumption which is neither recorded nor taxed and gives way to the growth of the black market in such states.
De-merits of Alcohol ban
Elements such as economy, jobs, etc. cannot be overlooked on account of morality or prohibition. Tax revenues from alcohol manufacture and sale form a substantially large part of a state’s economy. Denying such a benefit that can attract foreign investment and tourism may not work in favour of the state. The tax imposed on alcohol is majorly high in the country, which if implemented in Gujarat can reduce consumption and prove to be beneficial financially to the state’s economy.
Instead of banning liquor altogether, the state must work towards regulating it. The main aim of policymakers should be to create rules that promote compliance and responsible behaviour. The prevalent alcohol procurement in the black market is an evident indication that the absence of a particular substance allows people to misuse such a prohibition which can further have no legal remedy if exercised. When policies are implemented to cause a reform in the societal structure and mindset rather than imposing a punitive ideology, it is effectively run with the least amount of friction. If seen from a logical point of view, there seems to be no valid reason for the prohibition to stay in a place other than a certain political agenda and image. A liquor ban in certain chosen states added to an outdated idea and provides no real merit to the objective behind implementing such an act, thus it should be done away with to restore an individual’s freedom of consumption and the state’s potential economical position. Change in such a dated norm will require the state’s effort along with awareness of alcohol consumption and stringent rules for its distribution for the prohibition to successfully come to an end.
Author(s) Name: Esha Sharma (Nirma University, Ahmedabad)
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 Constitution of India 1950, art 21
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