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Delhi Wine Club
Blog: Time to Lower Legal Age for Wine & Alcohol

Posted: Monday, 11 February 2013 11:14

Blog: Time to Lower Legal Age for Wine & Alcohol

Feb 11 : Bombay High Court directed the Maharashtra government on Thursday to file a reply to a PIL filed by the well-known Bollywood actor, Imran Khan challenging the notification increasing legal age limit to consume liquor from 21 to 25 years even though the Court did not agree to grant a stay against the order. Subhash Arora reports.

A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice A V Mohta said the matter required consideration and hence it could not grant stay on the September 2009 notification. "The state government shall file its reply by April 15," the bench said, admitting the petition, according to the media report.

Imran Khan had approached the High Court in September, 2011 challenging Maharashtra government's proposal to increase the legal age limit to consume liquor from 21 to 25 years. After filing the petition he had told reporters that the state government's proposal infringed upon the fundamental rights of a citizen living in a democratic country like India.

"If the government has not banned sale of liquor then anyone above the age of 21 should have the choice of consuming it. A major can decide for himself what is right and wrong," he had said.

His lawyer, Senior counsel Milind Sathe, argued that under general law a person is considered as an adult after attaining the age of 18. "At the age of 18, the person is allowed to vote and procure a driving license. Girls are allowed to marry at this age. The government cannot impose such an arbitrary restriction. A person of 18 years can make his own decision," Sathe said.

In a contrast, it is ironic that the legal age for selling cigarette in India is 18 years. Even that law is more on paper than the actual practice. After a strong anti- gutka (intoxicating tobacco-bearing compound in the chewing form) lobby, the government banned the sale in Delhi last year though the law is still being flouted openly.

There is naturally no age applicable in a private place like home-either for smoking or drinking unlike drugs like cocaine and hash which are banned, including their possession in person or in the house.

The drinking age varies from country to country but 18 is the most commonly found age. I make it a point to ask thh producers I meet in diffrent countries about their feelings about minors drinking wine. I found that usually wine producing countries and the producers start serving wine to the children at the age of 16 or even earlier with food and in the company of the family, at times in a diluted form. Diego Planeta, the wine brand ambassador of Sicily, who was in India recently with a group of Sicilian producers, says he used to be given a few drops of wine mixed with water even when he was a child and growing up, along with food so that he might learn about wine is a food product and to avoid getting drunk on wine or alcohol. This is the practice with most wine producing families in Sicily, he affirmed.

Non wine producing countries are generally unenthusiastic of children getting a taste of wine before the age of 18 which is usually a legal age in such countries where the law  is seriously followed. If a bar or restaurant is found serving alcohol to a minor, even in the company of his parents or adult members who consent to his or her imbibing wine, the establishment faces immediate suspension of liquor license and prosecution, making the managers strictly watching and  maintaining the limit and as a procedure without exceptions, check the IDs .

The matter is sub-judice but I ecommend the starting age for tasting wine as 16 in the company of parents, preferably with half a glass of wine with food. The official age for selling wine and beer should be 18 with hard liquor to be allowed only at 21. As a first step, the legal age could be brought down to 21. The government needs to step up the prosecutions and subsequent punishment against drunk driving as much as promote the educational programmes depicting the harms of excessive drinking, including schools in the agenda.  Monitored consumption of wine from an early age, rather than reckless drinking hard liquor later could be beneficial and will bring down on handling the national expenses on alcohol related diseases.  Of course, the teetotalers do not need to be encouraged to start drinking wine or beer- the ages indicated are the minimum recommended ages.

Subhash Arora  


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