Time for liquor laws to sober up

May 30, 2012, 07:07 IST | Samarth Moray

While this paper does not advocate alcoholism, we intend to question the absurdity of archaic rules that govern our drinking

When you hear the term liquor what comes to mind? Rum, gin, vodka, whiskey, Scotch perhaps? Next time, look before you sip. According to the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949 (yes, 1949), which regulates imported liquor in Maharashtra, all liquids containing alcohol are counted as liquor.

Hard-nosed rules: Many of these laws are unknown to citizens and are often misused by cops to extract bribes. Representation pic

Anyone who imports, exports, transports, sells or buys any alcohol without the licences and permits required under this Act faces imprisonment up to five years and a fine of Rs 50,000. Similar penalties exist for manufacturing alcohol or opening a ‘drinking house’. The Act was last amended 15 years ago.

Now, consider this for a state that boasts of a Napa Valley of its own, and plans to promote wine tourism. Section 73 of the Act also prohibits advertisement of alcoholic beverages, with a punishment of six months imprisonment or a Rs 5,000 fine for every breach. Permits are required for everything from ‘special functions’ to selling wine wholesale, apart from those required for eateries serving alcohol or liquor shops.

Tipple only at 25
The Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949, also says a liquor permit is necessary in Maharashtra for purchase, possession, transport, and consumption of liquor. Any person above the age of 25 years is eligible for obtaining a permit. Even with a permit, the state government recently limited the amount of liquor a person can possess and transport at a time to two units per person per week, down from 12 units. One unit equals 750 ml. In case of wine, a unit is 1,500 ml, and for beers and mild liquors it is equivalent to 2,600 ml. The government via gazette notifications regularly revises many other rules related to alcohol regulation.

Under the Act, liquor permits can be obtained from any excise office. An application form — available for free — needs to be filled out and submitted. It must have two stamp-sized photographs, an ID proof (like a driving licence or passport) and address proof (like an electricity bill or bank statement). The form also asks for details like one’s name, age, date of birth, occupation and address. A Rs 5 stamp, available at any court, needs to be glued to the document The fees are Rs 5 a day for foreign liquor, Rs 2 a day for country liquor, Rs 100 for a year and Rs 1,000 for a lifetime permit.

Govt’s drinking issues
Other liquor-related laws used by cops: Indian Penal Code, 1860
>> Section 268: A person is guilty of a public nuisance, if he/she does any act or is guilty of an illegal omission, which causes any common injury, danger or annoyance to the public or to the people in general who dwell or occupy property in the vicinity, or which must necessarily cause injury, obstruction, danger or annoyance to persons who may have occasion to use any public right. A common nuisance is not excused on the ground that it causes some convenience or advantage. Acts which seriously interfere with the health, safety, comfort or convenience of the public generally, or which tend to degrade public morals are a public nuisance.

Bombay Police Act, 1951
>> Section 110 (Behaving indecently in public): No person shall willfully and indecently expose his person at any street or public place or within sight of, and in such manner as to be seen from any street or public place, whether from within any house or building or not, or use indecent language or behave indecently or riotously, or in a disorderly manner in a street or place of public resort or in any office station or station house. 
>> Section 112 (Misbehaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace): No person shall use in any street or public place any threatening abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace, or whereby a breach of the peace may be 


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