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Firstly, as per Oxford Dictionary ‘Liquor’ refers to any alcoholic drink, especially distilled

spirits. Going by the definition, liquor is any alcohol containing fluids that are obtained via

distillation of fermented juice from plants. Now, these juices include wines, distillates of which

are termed as brandies. Examples of these distilled spirits include brandy, whiskey, rum, gin

and vodka. 1

Many people enjoy a drink without any problem, but drinking heavily over a longer period of

time can have several serious consequences. Alcohol misuse not only harms the individual

consuming it, but damages relationships and society in general in terms of violence, crimes,

accidents, drunk driving etc. to name a few. Though the recognized immediate effects of

drinking too much are nausea and vomiting, prolonged heavy drinking over longer periods of

time can affect in many different ways. It can also cause several long-term effects such as brain

damage, cancer, high blood pressure resulting in hypertension which increases the risk of

having a heart-attack or stroke even linked to cases of sudden death. It is even accredited to

affect several body parts like stomach, liver, lungs, intestines, kidneys, bones, skin causing

several weaknesses including sudden weight gain, several mental health problems like

depression, anxiety, risk-taking behaviour, personality disorders to name a few. Alcohol has

also been linked to several suicide cases as excessive drinking can disrupt normal sleeping

patterns, which can contribute to stress and anxiety that can ultimately also lead to difficult

situations and emotions thus leading towards committing suicide.

1. http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-

It may also lead to several sexual health issues wherein it can affect in causing impotence and

infertility for men, while causing infertility to women. In fact, drinking alcohol when pregnant

can seriously damage the development of the unborn baby. Alcohol also affects the brain in

controlling judgement, concentration, co-ordination, behaviour and emotions. 2

The number of Indians who drink are low, as per International standards, infact only a third of

the population, but they are drinking more. Statistics from the “Organisation for Economic Co-

Operation and Development” show a rapid increase in alcohol consumption in India, up by

55% between 1992 – 2012. What is more worrying being how and what they drink as drinking

to intoxication seems to be the goal. That would certainly explain why Indians overwhelmingly

drink hard liquor; the “World Health Organization” found that 93% of all alcohol consumed in

India in the form of spirits. In India, drinking has also developed into a culture. However, one

must know when to drink, where to drink and with whom to drink. Like for instance, if one

drinks and goes to his/her workplace in an inebriated condition, then it is of course

objectionable. But, if after a day’s hard work one wishes to relax at home in the evening, has a

peg or two, then has dinner and goes to bed, there isn’t anything wrong in that.

In fact, referring to a Supreme Court case – R. Rajagopalan v. State of Tamil Nadu, AIR 1995

S.C. 264 wherein the court observed that what one eats and drinks is part of one’s right to

privacy, which is a fundamental right as per our Constitution. In paragraph 26 of the decision,

the Court stated: “The right to privacy is implicit in the right to life and liberty guaranteed to

every citizen of this country under Article 21. It is right to be let alone. A citizen has a right to

safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, child-bearing

and education among other matters.”

2. http://www.knowyourlimits.info/know%E2%80%A6-effects-alcohol
It may be noted that in India, the liquor ban laws were only challenged before the Supreme

Court on the ground that they violated Article 14 (Equality) and Article 19(1)(g) (Freedom of

Trade) of the Constitution, but never on the ground of violation of Article 21, probably because

that Article had not been expanded by the Court earlier. In the opinion of ‘Justice Markandey

Katju’ – a former judge of the Supreme Court, he states as follows: “The Courts now need to

look into the matters of liquor ban as violation to Article 21 and accordingly, I submit that

drinking in moderation even at a public place, but without disturbing public order, is one’s

fundamental right, being part of one’s right to privacy.” 3


India’s experience with prohibition is chequered. As prohibition brings with it many questions.

Any state exhibiting the prohibition of sale or consumption of liquor will have to consider the

consequences not only to public health but also to that state’s finances and individual freedom.

Going into the history, America had once experimented with prohibition of liquor from 1920

– 1933. what they then called it a ‘noble experiment’. This experiment was a huge failure as

due to the prohibition, the death rate from poisoned liquor was appallingly high throughout the


3. Prohibition has never worked and never will – By Markandeya Katju on 01/01/2016 -

In 1925 the national toll reached 4,154 as compared to 1,064 in 1920. As per ‘Mark Thornton’

– an American economist in a policy analysis titled “Alcohol prohibition was a failure”

mentions that prohibition was undertaken to reduce crime and corruption, solve social

problems, reduce the tax burden and improve health, hygiene in America. Instead, he writes, it

was a miserable failure on all counts. Thornton’s research on prohibition, too, points out how

a gradual decline in rate of serious crimes was unintentionally reversed by the prohibition

movement. A 78 percent increase over the pre-prohibition days was seen in homicide rate in

America, he noted. 4

The beginning of the end of the world’s most famous experiment in alcohol prohibition came

in a hail of bullets. The hit, organised by ‘Al Capone’ on 14th February 1929 in a Chicago

garage, became known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. The executioners were thorough,

raking their victims’ bodies with machine-gun fire even after they had slumped to the ground.

It came to symbolise the mob rule that critics said had been brought about by the 1920 Volstead

Act, which banned consumption of alcohol across America.

Yet, more than 80 years later, India is embarking on an experiment in prohibition that is, in

terms of population, already twice the scale of what was attempted in America in the 1920s.

More than 200 million Indians now live in states where the sale of alcohol is already banned.

The population of America in 1920, where prohibition began, was only about 100 million. The

impetus is concern about India’s growing alcohol problem. The response in India has been a

huge growth of temperance movements – mostly led by women, just as there was in America

at the turn of the last century.

4. A chequered history: Does alcohol prohibition really work in India? – A Hindustan

Times article dated April 17, 2016

These organisations argue that alcohol is at the root of a series of serious and growing social

problems, including domestic violence, family debt, petty crime and India’s epidemic of road

death and injury. And they have proved a potent political force. There are now bans in four

states, and a number of others have hinted they may follow suit, including an 80 million-strong

Tamil Nadu. The ban on alcohol usually hurts the lowest strata of society the most. In the last

decade, over a thousand people have died due to hooch-related issues in West Bengal (156

people in 2011), Gujarat (136 people in 2009), Karnataka and Tamil Nadu (180 dead in 2008),

Odisha (200 dead in 1992) and the worst in Karnataka in 1981 when over 300 people died due

to methyl alcohol poisoning. Hence the evidence in India, just as it did in America raises

questions about whether bans work. The antics of mobsters like ‘Al Capone’ had already turned

many Americans against the policy, as did the fact that prohibition hadn’t actually brought a

huge reduction in alcohol consumption. But the final nail in it coffin was taxation. After the

Wall Street Crash in 1929 came the Great Depression. Tax receipts collapsed and the state and

Federal governments were desperate for money. Lifting prohibition was an easy way to raise

revenue. Perhaps the biggest question for India’s prohibitionists will be whether state

governments can afford to forgo that kind of cash. 5

The anti-alcohol protests took its inspirations from the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. It is

perhaps the overhang of the Gandhian spirit of the Directive Principles of State Policy in the

Constitution that inhibits politicians and civil society from shedding hypocrisy and initiating

public advocacy of moderation. However, there is a pragmatic case against prohibition as well.

Banning the sale and consumption of alcohol has in this country’s experience, not been an

effective check against its use.

5. What Al Capone can teach India about prohibition - http://www.bbc.com/news/world-

It has only criminalised the activity with disastrous consequences for individual health, the

economy and administration — these include bootlegging, liquor mafias, spurious liquor and

a complicit police. It also deprives States of an important source of revenue. Certainly,

alternative sources of revenue must be found if prohibition can virtuously, magically transform

society. That case has, however not been made, in argument or by experience. Large portions

of present-day Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, undivided

Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala had implemented prohibitions since 1937. In 1967, all

except the two of them i.e. Mizoram and Gujarat – repealed the law. By 1954, almost one-

fourth of India was under prohibition and the central government had an April 1958 target to

achieve nationwide prohibition, said a report by ‘Justice Udayabhanu committee’ which

studied the effects of alcoholism in Kerala in the 1990s. Here’s a quick look at how some Indian

states that tried to stop drinking have fared.


The north-eastern state, where the majority is Christian revoked the 18 years of prohibition this

January 2016 after realising that the spread of the bootlegging industry and falling tax revenues

from alcohol are issues too pressing to ignore. The church had to roll back its resistance against

lifting the ban, relaising that clerics do not have popular support on the issue. Mizoram

residents can now buy upto 6 bottles of hard liquor and 10 bottles of wine and beer every

month, if they have a ₹5,000 permit.


In Manipur, the state government in 2002 lifted a ban enforced in 1991 owing to pressure from

rebels outfits. The Chief Minister – Okram Ibobi Singh in July tabled a bill to lift the ban

completely as after 24 years of the ban, the state realised the poor quality bootlegged liquor
produced in Assam is flooding Manipur, cheating the state of revenue, according to an Indian

Express report. “Manipur is unable to implement the National Food Security Act. Because of

financial constraints, we are unable to provide rice to Below Poverty Line (B.P.L.) families at

₹3/kilogram” said Ibobi.


Bootlegged alcohol from Assam and increasing financial constraints are also a worry for

Nagaland, where prohibition has been in place since 1989. “We all have agreed to lift the act

on the ground that Nagaland has become the ‘wettest dry state’ in the country,” said the

Nagaland chief minister T.R. Zeliang in 2015. Churches were not averse to the idea except the

Nagaland Baptist Church Council which also received a lot of criticism.


The birthplace of Gandhi who pushed for prohibition in the directive principles of state policy

of the Indian constitution has had a total alcohol ban since 1960. But this hasn’t stopped the

sale and consumption of alcohol in Gujarat. In July 2009. Babubhai Shankerdas Patel, a 70-

year-old de-addiction activist dropped pamphlets alongwith plastic pouches containing alcohol

at the then Chief Minister – Anandiben Patel from the visitor’s gallery of the state assembly in

March, as reported by India Today. It’s easier to get alcohol than food in Gujarat, with home-

delivered bottles often a phone call away, thanks to small local suppliers, as reported by The

Hindu in 2015. Bootleggers and ordinary citizens alike, all flouted the law, a National Institute

of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences study pointed out in 2013. A state like Gujarat is an

example of how prohibition gave rise to bootlegging, corruption and crime.

Tamil Nadu

In 1957, the then chief minister of Madras province – C. Rajagopalachari introduced

prohibition in Tamil Nadu carrying forward the legacy of prohibition in Madras presidency

introduced way back in 1937. After two decades of a dry run, in 1971 the ‘Dravida Munnetra

Kazhagam (DMK)’ government under Chief Minister – M. Karunanidhi reversed prohibition.

Ever since, instead of a long-term policy prohibition has been a political issue for arch rivals

DMK and the ‘All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)’. DMK reinstated the

ban in 1973. But after coming to power to 1977, AIADMK reversed it. In 1981, AIADMK

allowed the sale of arrack and toddy. In 1987, it banned arrack and toddy. In 1990, DMK came

back to power and removed the ban on arrack and toddy. A year later, AIADMK under the

leadership of the ‘Late J. Jayalalithaa’ came to power and again banned arrack and toddy. In

Tamil Nadu nearly ₹30,000 crore or over a quarter of its revenue in 2015-16 came from taxes

on the sale of alcohol and excise on manufacturing spirits. This income has enabled successive

regimes from 2006 onwards to splurge on social sector schemes, especially the trademark

programmes to supply free rice to nearly all ration card holders, distribute consumer goods and

maintain its pioneering nutritious noon meal scheme for all children in government and aided

schools and anganwadis.6 In recent developments just before the demise of J. Jayalalithaa as

the sitting Chief Minister of the state had come to power promised to implement phase-wise

execution of the prohibition. Now, with several political developments observed post her

demise only time will be able to showcase the outcome in the state.

6. http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/Of-populism-and-prohibition/

Andhra Pradesh

Undivided Andhra Pradesh (which includes the current day’s newly formed state of Telangana)

is another state that tried out prohibition for a few years. It was after large-scale protests from

various groups, mainly women that the ‘Telugu Desam Party’ government declared prohibition

in Andhra Pradesh in 1992. But the ban was repealed after five years, reportedly because of its

financial impact.


In Haryana, the ‘Haryana Vikas Party’ came to power on the plank of prohibition in 1996 and

its leader Bansi Lal fulfilled the pledge soon after becoming chief minister. He had to roll it

back after getting drubbed in the 1998 general elections, where his party lost eight out of its

total 10 seats.


Karnataka, home to iconic breweries with Bengaluru as its pub capital, never had to face long

spells of prohibition. But since 2007, the government has banned arrack. 7

7. http://www.livemint.com/Politics/PminUIJiL3vo0x8K45mgfM/How-Indian-states-



Kerala, the state with the highest per capita consumption of alcohol has embarked on a 10-year

path to total prohibition, by first limiting the sale of “hard liquor” to five-star bars and

restaurants and gradually reducing the number of sale points. Pinarayi Vijayan, the current

Chief Minister reiterated his party’s stance on alcohol prohibition stating that the party believes

in abstinence and not prohibition. “Prohibition leads to many socio-legal problems. Wherever

liquor has been prohibited, there is a tendency to consume through illegal mean. That leads to

large-scale loss of life,” he told Mint in an interview. Here’s a timeline of alcohol prohibition

in Kerala and the developments so far.

August 2014

Citing increased instances of alcohol abuse, the state government declared that only 23 five-

star hotels will be permitted to serve liquor. It announced a phase-wise ban, which included

closing down of several hundreds of bars. The state government, under the then chief minister

‘Oomen Chandy’ submitted a road map to make Kerala a dry state by October 2023. In an

interview, the chief minister said that though prohibition would lead to financial loss and

decline in tourism revenue, he would go ahead with the ban. Kerala now faces an estimated

loss of more than ₹7,000 crore annually.

Section 15C of the Kerala Abkari Act states : “Consumption in public places. – No person shall

consume liquor in any public place unless consumption of liquor in any such place is permitted

under a license granted by the Commissioner. For the purpose of explanation of this section,

‘public place’ means any street, Court, Police Station (or other public office or any club) or

any place of public amusement or resort or on board any passenger boat or vessel or any
(‘public passenger or goods vehicle’) or dining or refreshment room in a restaurant, hotel, rest-

house, travellers bungalow or tourist bungalow where different individuals or groups of persons

consume food but shall not include any private residential room.”

Rule 13(3) of the Abkari Rules framed on August 22, 2014 which exempt five star hotels from

the ban is an exception to Section 15C and was ostensibly for the purpose of not harming

tourism. The bench referred to the Constitution Bench decision of the Supreme Court in

Khoday Distilleries vs. State of Karnataka (1995) 1 S.C.C. 574 which held that there is no

fundamental right to trade or do business in liquor and the state can totally prohibit it in view

of Article 47 of the Constitution which states: “The State shall regard the improvement of

public health as among its primary duties and in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring

about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and

of drugs which are injurious to health.” Several bar owners and hoteliers held meetings to

consider legal recourse against the state’s decision. While some chose to air their grievances

with the government, some considered taking legal steps.

December 2014

Facing flak over the move, the government relaxed norms related to sale of alcohol. It said that

other hotels and bars could sell alcohol, but only wine and beer. The state has a high

consumption of rum and brandy.

March 2015

Bars and hotels in the state had moved the Kerala High Court challenging the state

government’s decision on alcohol. The High Court upheld the state government’s decision.

"Tourism cannot be the only motive of any policy, welfare and health of people is equally
important. The promotion of tourism cannot translate into promotion of liquor," the court had

said. The move resulted in closing down of over 300 bars at that time in the state.

April 2015

Following the High Court’s decision, bar owners in the state moved the Supreme Court,

challenging the order.

December 2015

By its judgment in Kerala Bar Hotels Association vs. State of Kerala, delivered on December

29, 2015 a Two-Judge bench of the Supreme Court upheld the ban on consumption of liquor

in public places in Kerala except in five star Hotels. By the time the court had delivered the

judgement, 700 bars had closed down in the state.

“The consumption of tobacco as well as liquor is now undeniably deleterious to the health of

humankind. Banning public consumption of alcohol, therefore, in our considered opinion,

cannot but only be seen as a positive step" the court said. Bar owners, represented by Attorney

General Mukul Rohatgi, had said that the order was discriminatory as it meant only rich could

access alcohol in the state.

April 2016

Ahead of assembly elections in the state, the UDF government reiterated its promise on

prohibition in the state in ten years. Meanwhile, the newly-elected LDF in its poll manifesto

maintained that it will not push hard for prohibition but for abstinence as the implementing the

former strategy meant loss of jobs to several people.

May 2016

A week after winning assembly elections in the state, LDF said that it will review the liquor

policy that was set implemented by the previous government. It said that the ban was causing

loss to the tourism industry and that it led to rampant use of drugs by people in the state. 8



Within two days after the Patna High Court quashed its order on prohibition, Bihar government

on Gandhi Jayanti Sunday came out with a new law banning liquor with harsher provisions

like arrest of all adults in the event of recovery of the contraband in their house. The

government notified the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 to ensure that the ban on sale

and consumption of alcohol including Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) as well spiced and

domestic liquor continued in the state.

At the special meeting of the state cabinet called on Gandhi Jayanti, the chief minister and other

members of his cabinet took a pledge to continue with prohibition which they said was

“ushering in positive social change” in the state. Besides retaining many provisions of the

previous one, the new liquor law has some more stringent provisions including enhancing

duration of imprisonment, hiking amount of fine, arrest of all adults in case of recovery of

liquor bottle from a house and collective fine on a place in case of habitual violation of


8. http://www.business-standard.com/article/politics/as-kerala-cm-bats-for-abstinence-a-

Principal Secretary (Cabinet Secretariat) – Brajesh Mehrotra usually briefs media about

Cabinet decisions but the Chief Minister himself took the mike and answered all queries in this

regards. He told reporters that the new liquor law brought into force would be a real tribute to

the Father of the Nation when the state is readying to observe the centenary celebration of

Gandhiji’s Champaran Satyagraha against British rule from the state in early 2017. The new

liquor law came into force in Bihar barely two days after the Patna High Court had on Friday

quashed its April 5 notification describing it as ultra vires of Constitution.

The new Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 after approval from both Houses of state

Legislatures on August 4 got the consent of Governor – Ram Nath Kovind on September 7

2016. The CM told reporters that after receiving the approval from Governor the state Cabinet

had in its meeting on September 14 last gave it a nod for notification from October 2, 2016.

Principal Additional Advocate General – Lalit Kishore who attended a high level meeting

convened by the CM hours after the HC order on Friday which had quashed its April 5

notification describing it as ultra vires of Constitution, made it clear that the Division Bench of

‘Chief Justice Iqbal Ahmad Ansari’ and ‘Justice Navnati Prasad Singh’ had quashed the April

5 notification on prohibition and did not say anything about the Amended Excise Act. 9

Delivering on the Chief Minister – Nitish Kumar’s election promise, the government passed a

law that prohibits consumption, manufacture and sale of alcohol as it became the second state

after Gujarat to prescribe death penalty for manufacturers, suppliers and sellers of hooch in

cases of death due to spurious liquor consumption.

9. Bihar becomes dry state again, Nitish Kumar enforces new law to ban liquor – An

Indian Express article dated 03.10.2016

Bihar’s decision to ban alcohol came at a time when a state like Mizoram lifted the 18-year-

old ban on alcohol only in 2014. But Nitish Kumar seems firm in his commitment. “I feel this

is the right time for social change in Bihar. People will now use the money invested in liquor

to add nutrition to their plates, avoid disease and economic ruination. That offsets all revenue

concerns,” Kumar told reporters.

The Bihar government’s new prohibition law which could land those drinking alcohol in jail

for upto seven years and make them poorer by ₹1 lakh to ₹10 lakhs. It also has a provision

under which people who allow their premises to be used for a congregation where liquor is

served and brawls take place will be imprisoned for a period of 10 years which can be extended

to life term. All adults of a family are liable to be arrested if liquor was found at their house.

Collective fine would be slapped on villages and urban clusters in case of habitual violation of

the prohibition law. Seeking to address the concern of people about being falsely implicated in

cases the new law has provision for prosecution of an excise or police officer for making

vexatious search, seizure, detention or arrest under the Act. There is a provision of 3 years’ jail

and a penalty of ₹1 lakh or both for such errant officers.

Defending his government’s decision on prohibition, Kumar referred to the Supreme Court’s

order that sale and consumption of liquor is not a fundamental right of a citizen. “Besides it is

in tune with the directive principles of the state policy. I am following constitutional duty,” he

said. 10

10. http://thewire.in/70591/bihar-brings-new-law-alcohol-ban-hc-quashed-old-one/
Proceedings already started against one village where every household faces a fine of ₹5,000

– quite a sum in a state where the average household income is just ₹36,000 a year. Yet, despite

the new powers and swinging punishments, alcohol is still itseems widely available in Bihar.

In August 2016, 13 people in one Bihar village died after drinking some lethal home-brewed

hooch during Indian Independence Day celebrations.

In India there is no sign of the anti-alcohol bandwagon faltering just yet. Many political

analysts believe the canny and charismatic Chief Minister of Bihar – Nitish Kumar, is

championing prohibition in the hope that its appeal – particularly with women and Muslim

voters will help power a widely-anticipated prime ministerial bid in 2019. But he should beware

the issue that ultimately ended prohibition in the US. Banning alcohol in Bihar is expected to

lose the state ₹40 billion – a lot of money in India's poorest state.


Its indeed a very difficult task to state whether the prohibition of liquor in present-day India is

a move that is needed. Specially looking back through the history of failures towards

prohibition both across other countries like in America or with regards to its implementation

in several Indian states. As we need to also consider the outcomes of such harsh implementation

that lead to the Al Capone kind of a massacre. Also, with regards to the Indian people mindset

followed by age-old problems like poverty, illiteracy can only add more woes, if not

implemented properly. However, the move specially in Bihar seems very positive at the

commitment level of Chief Minister – Nitish Kumar and his government, only hope it doesn’t

result in more rising crimes in the near future as the state which is also ranked as the poorest

state in India will have to further encounter a huge financial burden due to the alcohol ban.