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Posted: Wednesday, 25 August 2021 12:10

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Gujarat High Court hears Plea against Prohibition Policy

Aug 25: The issue of drinking alcohol in the privacy of home has become a contentious issue with the Hon’ble Gujarat High Court listening to the petitions challenging the Prohibition Act under which sale and consumption of liquor is banned and government contending it is not within the purview of the Court, writes Subhash Arora who feels some legal eagles might be inspired to challenge State Governments like Delhi which is collecting around Rs. 3000 Cr as the Vend fee alone for retailing the products sought to be banned in the Constitution and urge the Courts look into the constitutionality of such Acts

The rationale behind the petitions is the right of privacy as a fundamental right in the Constitution. One of the petitions argued that the law was irrational and unfair as the State could not dictate what a citizen could eat or drink in the privacy of his home. The law has also made it much easier for foreign tourists and out-of-state visitors to get liquor permits. This violates the Right to Equality under Article 14 of the Constitution.

Kamal Trivedi, the Advocate General of Gujarat has countered by saying that the right to privacy of every citizen is subject to certain restrictions based on the social environment. He also contended that the Supreme Court had already upheld the Gujarat Prohibition Act in 1951 and the High Court cannot examine the validity of a law that has been upheld by the apex court, according to PTI.

Also Read: Whopping Jump in Tax Revenue assured for Delhi Excise in 2021-22

The petitioners submit that sometimes a change in the law precedes societal change and is even intended to stimulate it; sometimes it is the result in the social reality. The law must take cognizance of the changing society and march in consonance with the developing concepts, they aver.

A women’s NGO has pleaded that the court does not accept the arguments of the petitioners, according to The Indian Express. “Essentially, the entire prohibition law centres around section 12 and 13 which is held to be constitutionally valid and has been enforced since the past 70 years and people of Gujarat are extremely happy with the Prohibition law.”

Also Read: Blog: Delhi Excise getting ready to improve Wine and Liquor Policy

Gujarat has been the only Indian State which has consistently enforced Prohibition since it was carved out of Bombay State in 1960 through the Gujarat Prohibition Act, 1949 which is a replicate of the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949 enacted to promote and enforce alcohol prohibition in the erstwhile Bombay in 1949. Gujarat adopted the prohibition policy in 1960 and subsequently enforced it with greater rigidity. In 2011, it renamed the Act as Gujarat Prohibition Act, which is primarily under attack from the petitioners. 

After hearing the arguments in the case, the division bench (DB) of Hon’ble Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Hon’ble Justice Biren Vaishnav has reserved its order on the petitions.

Also Read: Reforms expected in Delhi Excise Policy for 2021-22

In the statement of objects and reasons for an amendment in 2016, the State government had declared that it was “committed to the ideals and principles of Mahatma Gandhi and firmly intends to eradicate the menace of drinking liquor.”

It would be curious to see if there will be any course correction after the judgement in other States which have made a ‘mockery’ of Article 47 in the garb of attempting to impose Prohibition, according to the industry experts. Case in point is a State like Delhi which recently mopped up around Rs. 3000 Crores (Rs. 30 billion) according to media reports, in collecting license fee alone from the Vends and the government has been harping on collecting a sizeable higher amount of tax revenues during the current year excise policy and has several critics pulling their hair as they feel they have been ‘short changed’, according to industry insiders.

Also Read: Two more Gujarat Airports to issue Liquor Permits

Subhash Arora

 

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