Author: Bhagesh Gupta, III year of B.A.,LL.B from manipal university jaipur.
Alcohol usage, the legal drinking age in India, and the consistency of the legal drinking age in India have all been contentious issues in India. According to a recent estimate, India's per capita alcohol consumption has more than quadrupled between 2016 and 2020. Despite alcohol prohibitions in several places across the country, over 88 percent of Indians under the age of 25 purchase or use alcoholic drinks. According to India's present alcohol regulations, each state has the authority to make its own rules. This has caused a lot of uncertainty among Indian inhabitants, as well as a lot of diversity. On the one hand, we talk about "Unity in Diversity yet on the other hand, there exist disparities in alcohol consumption among inhabitants of different states. According to present alcohol rules, a person of 21 years of age can legally consume alcohol in Jharkhand today, but if that same person travels to Delhi or Bihar tomorrow, he will be considered an unlawful drinker. The need for uniformity in legal drinking across the country is urgent, and it is a critical component in limiting the breadth of discrimination and other bad aspects of it. Finally, alcohol has become a need rather than a luxury, and it must be dealt with urgently. One of the most thrilling aspects of a person's life is their first time drinking or tasting an alcoholic beverage. Alcohol is a toxin that may be both poisonous and addicting. It is generated when yeast ferments the carbohydrates in grains, fruits, and vegetables to produce ethanol (ethyl alcohol). Everyone enjoys the rush of adrenaline that comes with being old enough to drink what he's seen his elders ingest. However, every government imposes various limits on the usage of alcohol, one of which is a minimum drinking age. In India, alcohol usage has long been a hot topic. In India, it has long been a contentious topic. The non-uniformity in India's legal drinking age has sparked a discussion among millennials. In India, the legal drinking age varies from state to state. India is the only country in the world where states have the authority to enact alcohol laws, resulting in varying legal drinking ages across the country.
While some governments advocate for a full prohibition on its usage for consumption, others set an age limit for alcohol consumption. There are legal purchasing ages for beer, wine, and sprits both on and off premises, as well as by kind of beverage (beer, wine, and sprits). According to Merriam Webster, drinking age is defined as the age at which a person can lawfully purchase and consume alcohol. India, too, maintains such limits on the purchase and use of alcoholic beverages. However, the imposition in India is not uniform across the country. We have a standard legal age for marriage driving, and voting but we don't have a uniform legal drinking age. List 2(Entry 51 and 54) of the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution has granted State authorities the right to amend and control alcohol laws in their nation, resulting in a non-uniform legal drinking age throughout the world. Also Article 4710 of the Indian Constitution gives each state the authority to enforce the ban of intoxicating beverages and narcotics. As a result, each Indian state has its unique alcohol usage and buying rules. While some Indian states have an age limit of 18, others have outright outlawed it or have a specific prohibition up to a particular age. This research paper will discuss why a uniform legal drinking age is necessary and why it is the right thing to do.
Current Alcohol Laws In India
In India, the legal age for purchasing and drinking alcoholic drinks varies by state. In certain states, alcohol use is completely outlawed, while in others, the legal drinking age ranges from 18 to 25. It is because the issue of alcohol is covered under Entry 51 of the State List of the VII Schedule of the Indian Constitution. This allows all states to make their own laws about the present topic. This has resulted in significant diversity, with varying legal drinking ages in different states. Article 47 of the Indian Constitution, which was enacted following debates in the Constituent Assembly, is a directive principle of state policy that is supremely fundamental for the country's governance. It grants the state complete discretionary privilege over the consumption of liquor as a beverage, despite the fact that it is integrally hazardous to humanoid health.
Not only does the state have the authority to control consumption, but it also has the authority to put limits and prohibitions on the commerce and business of alcoholic beverages. As a result, a citizen has no essential right to trade or do commercial in liquor as a brew, and actions that are res additional commercium cannot be approved out by any inhabitant, and the State-run can completely forbid trade or do commercial in transportable liquor, as well as generate a monopoly in the trade or commercial of liquor. The state-run can also place limits and prohibitions on the trade or business of liquor and beverages, which are inherently distinct from those compulsory on the trade or commercial of authorised doings and res commercium commodities and apprenticeships. Kandahar Distillers vs. State of Kerala, AIR 2013 SC 1812. As a result, the legal drinking age in India varies.
Alcohol Policy World Wide
In all of the other nations, the legal drinking age is the same. Either it is banned, or there are no limitations, or there is no set age, but it is standard for that country. Alcohol is outlawed in Afghanistan, Argentina has an 18-year-old drinking age, and Cambodia has no legal drinking age. There is a standard legal drinking age in the rest of the countries as well. Nepal, a neighbouring Asian nation, has set the drinking age at 24 years old, whereas China and Singapore, farther north, have set the drinking age at 18 years old. In Japan and South Korea, the minimum drinking age has been set at 20 and 19, respectively. Drinking is illegal in most Islamic nations; however, non-Muslims residing in Pakistan above the age of 21 are permitted to drink alcoholic beverages.
Almost all African countries, with the exception of Egypt and Sudan, consider 18 to be the legal drinking age. Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, France, Republic of Ireland, Poland, Slovenia, and Slovakia are among the Latin American, Oceanian, and European countries that have set the drinking age at 18. In Austria, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, a purchaser of wine or beer must be 16 years old, and a purchaser of spirits must be 18 years old. In the European countries of Italy and Portugal, 16-year-olds can buy wine, drink it, and even work in a wine shop. The minimum drinking age in Scandinavian nations, with the exception of Denmark, is set at 18, however these privileges are only valid until the age of 20. In Iceland and Sweden, purchases of alcoholic drinks must be at least 20 years old, while those aged 18 and 19 are permitted to consume. Finland and Norway allow 18-year-olds to enjoy lighter, less concentrated beverages, whereas 21-year-olds can consume highly concentrated drinks. In Denmark, the legal age for purchasing alcohol containing 1.2 to 16.5 percent alcohol is 16 years old in shops and 18 years old in restaurants and bars, while drinking and possessing alcohol is lawful at any age.
Why Is It Necessary To Be Consistent?
Because of the non-uniformity in India's legal drinking age, residents from all over the world face significant issues and disadvantages.
It is a well-known truth that if a person is encouraged or prohibited not to do something, the likelihood of performing that thing increases dramatically. The same may be said with alcohol. Even outlawing alcohol use hasn't proven to be a significant step in reducing alcohol usage. Indeed, the rate of liquor smuggling has increased as a result of this. The state's borders are trafficked with a large volume of booze. Foreign liquors produced in India were smuggled inside the Rajdhani Express in 2018. Despite repeated statements that the use, sale, and exchange of booze in the state is forbidden, drivers, attendants, and personnel have recently been discovered carrying whiskey bottles in trains in dry Bihar. Furthermore, since the new State Excise Act went into effect, over 1.2 lakh persons have been detained and over 6 lakh gallons of liquor have been seized. Dholpur police officers seized 2,500 cartons of booze from two lorries travelling to Gujarat on the national route.
It is hard to limit someone in this day of variety. When a person has a different way to absorb things, he will naturally gravitate toward it and become reliant on it. It is the nation's responsibility to guarantee that the law's loopholes are closed. In an ideal world, if the drinking age is the same in all states, there will be less likelihood of liquor smuggling. Respecting the governments that have prohibited consumption on religious and state moral grounds, the police must guarantee that the smuggling rate decreases. The universality of drinking age will apply in states where there is now a large disparity in drinking ages.
Discrimination between the citizens of different state
As we all know, the legal drinking age is not universal and differs from state to state. The problem is real, and it has to be addressed. A similar sort of person may be found all around the country. Although the economic and social aspects differ, they collectively reflect a single country. On the one hand, the non-uniformity of the legal drinking age discriminates amongst persons. According to the existing legislation, an 18-year-old in Uttar Pradesh is additional accountable than an 18-year-old in Delhi, but this is not the case. Article 14 of the Indian constitution states unequivocally that "the State must not refuse to any individual equality before the law or equal protection of the laws within its jurisdiction."
Furthermore, the sole basis for discrimination is that it must be positive discrimination that is based on reasonable reason and discernible differences. Indeed, why is there non-uniformity in the case of alcohol while the ability to vote and the right to drive have a uniform legal age across the country? When other issues of national importance have uniform ages, the logic cannot be applicable for the non-fixed scenario. Voting is a prudential topic for the country because it selects the entire political kingdom, however driving is one of the most significant issues within the realm of national security. If these two topics, which are far more important than drinking, have a standard age, then the right to drink should also have a fixed legal age across the country.
I also performed a questionnaire study on the subject, and I was surprised to discover that 80% of my respondents were unaware that different states in India have varying legal ages. The majority of people say it is set at 18, while some believe it is set at 21. The disadvantages of non-uniformity have outweighed the benefits. I believe that there should be an age restriction for drinking, but it should be standardised. India is one of the countries where about half of the population consumes alcohol. There is an essential need for a national policy to restrict liquor use. The nation has a responsibility to protect the public's health and to guarantee that article 21 or any of the rights are not violated in any way. Liquor has evident negative effects, and if legislators do not establish a regulating strategy, the residents of the city would suffer. India would undoubtedly sink into the abyss. Alcohol is currently a state topic, yet there is a clear need for federal intervention in this area. An hour is required for a uniform legal drinking age. As India celebrates its diversity, it must be protected, and laws dealing with the most important issues, such as the right to vote, the accurate to drive, and the right to marry, must be under the control of the central government for better and more robust regulation. The right to consume alcohol should also have a uniform age, and there is a need for a national policy that addresses all alcohol-related laws.