Nov 02: The Indian Constitution has given powers to the States to frame the liquor laws under List 2
(Entry 51 and 54) of the Seventh Schedule, giving wide legislative powers to frame, modify and
regulate alcohol laws in their territory, thus resulting in variation of laws and regulations on
alcohol from state to state, writes Aruna Chawla, our guest writer, who has been working to
bring clarity to the confusing gamut of alcohol laws in the country.
As a 22-year-old, I am legally allowed to participate in a course on wines. However, in Delhi, I
can’t do that for another 3 years since most wine courses include wine tasting as a compulsory
subject of the course and the exams. I wanted to attend an interesting course on Italian wines
called Alfiere Italico—Wine, being conducted by the Indo- Italian Chamber of Commerce and
Industry conducted in Delhi and Bangalore among other cities. I would have done the course in
Delhi but because of the legal limits on alcohol consumption, I had to do it in Bangalore where
the legal drinking age is 21 years. Had this been conducted in Noida, which is a part of NCR,
and a city in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, I could have easily done the course there.
On one side of the Delhi border, I’m too young to drink, and on the other, I’m already a year
above the minimum drinking age! To add another strike to such a confusion, I could have easily
been 15 years old, and would have been legally allowed to do this course in Maharashtra, but
not one on beer and other spirits (until I’m 25), except the district of Wardha, Chandrapur, and Gadchiroli, where no one cares how old you are, you simply cannot drink alcohol.
My first post in this series talks about the legal age of alcohol consumption in various states
(please don’t trust Wikipedia when it comes to such information!):
Different Ages for Purchase and Consumption
The variation exists not just amongst states when it comes to consumption, but also within the
state when it comes to purchasing. Most state laws are silent on the minimum age of purchase,
so we tend to assume (very conveniently) that it will be the same as the minimum age of
consumption. But the government of Maharashtra enjoys a different law, leaving us confused:
the minimum age of purchase of all alcohol is 18 years, but the minimum age of consumption of
beers and spirits is 25 years.
If you’re 14 and drinking wine, just make sure you’re not the one who has purchased it. If you
are 21 and purchasing beer, just make sure you’re not the one consuming it (or don’t get caught
if you are *wink wink*). If you’re 25 and above, you’re past the age of confusion (except
Wardha, Chandrapur, and Gadchiroli where you have to cross the district border to drink legally.
People in Karnataka have a little respite on the confusion. The minimum age of purchase of alcohol is 18 years, and the minimum age of consumption is 21 years.
So, long story short, if you have simply been caught with alcohol in your possession but haven’t
yet drunk any, check if you’re above the legal age of alcohol purchase, and escape scot-free!
Thank me later.
Find here a List of age limits on alcohol consumption.
List of Drinking Age in Different States
From where I see it, the variation in age limits is a reflection of the underlying variation in levels
of acceptance of alcohol and alcohol drinking in these states. Is it because of religious
practices? Or may be a hyperactive focus on health? Research shows moderate drinking is good
for the human body, so what kind of research are we accepting? Looks more like political
gimmicks to me! It’ll be interesting to find out how we can bring these laws in cohesion and
remove these variations. What are your thoughts?
If you have any questions on the subject, please let us know in the comments section and we
shall try to address the issues.
Aruna is a 5th year Law Student, who is bitten by the wine bug and plans to pursue wine as a vocation after finishing her degree in a few months . She works with the F&B industry by providing consultancy on wines with a special focus on the millennial generation. She’s also coming up with her own blog on wines, millennials, marketing ( focusing on the Indian audience) and any combination thereof.
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