Sucheta Dalal :Alcohol laws in Maharashtra could drive you to drink
Sucheta Dalal

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Alcohol laws in Maharashtra could drive you to drink   

May 13, 2010

 Did you know why your favourite watering hole is called a ‘permit’ room? That’s because Maharashtra requires you to posses a liquor permit if you want to consume alcohol. What’s more, if you want to transport alcohol of any kind, you require a permit.


This 'requirement' is a classic case of a rule which is almost always breached, but has always existed in the statute books. The charade gets worse: The permissible drinking age is 25, according to the law, but various bars, pubs and ‘wine’ shops (as they are so called) have notices proclaiming that alcohol will not be sold to anyone below the age of 21.


The point is, why does the State have such an absurd policy like a 'permit' system under an archaic law like the Bombay Prohibition Act (1949)? According to this Act, purchasing and drinking alcohol without a permit is an 'offence.' The Act is clearly spelt out on a Maharashtra government official website:


Reports have been appearing in sections of the media that the permitted age for drinking will now be ‘increased’ to 25. But, according to the Act, this age stipulation already exists.


“There is no question of an amendment (to the law), because there is already an Act all along telling us that the age limit for drinking is 25 years,” said consumer activist and lawyer Jehangir Gai.


For the record, a liquor permit can be obtained for Rs25 (one year) and Rs75 (for three years). Permits can be obtained immediately on submission of application, says the government’s website. 


There are various penalties under the Act, which even include imprisonment up to five years or a fine which can go up to Rs50,000.“The officials cannot enforce the law, and they are not really inclined to do so,” said a bar owner, who obviously preferred anonymity.


So why have such a rule in the first place? If the Act is not being enforced and is being flouted by all and sundry, isn’t it time the State repealed it? — Aaron Rodrigues

-- Sucheta Dalal