Alcohol Consumption in India

Alcohol Consumption in India

Recently few political activists of the AAP party have allegedly asked for lowering of drinking age in the capital city of the country. The history of alcohol in our country is vast. Alcohol is consumed in India since the Vedic age and even before that. Acc. to Hindu mythology, Lord Indra, the king of all devas and the god of thunder and lightning consumed Somrasa (alcohol). Later we find that many kings in India consumed alcohol. The Mughals, Greeks, Turks, Persian, Dutch, English, French, Portuguese, etc were also involved in “Madira” (alcohol). None of the civilization in the world has remained untouched with alcohol consumption. India being a diversified nation has different group of people residing in different parts. Thus, the constitution makers of India kept alcohol a state subject and not a union subject. Alcohol is a subject in the State List under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India. Therefore, the laws governing alcohol vary from state to state.


Drunkenness is defined as the condition produced in a person who has taken alcohol in a quantity sufficient to cause him to lose control of his faculties to such an extent that he is unable to execute the occupation on which he is engaged at the material time. Habitual drinking may occasionally lead to such permanent change in brain tissues as to be accounted for insanity such as delirium tremens and alcoholic dementia. Section 84 of the Bombay Prohibition Act 1949 provides that any person, who is found drunk or drinking in a common drinking house or is found there present for the purpose of drinking, shall on conviction, be punished with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees. Section 85 provides that any person found drunk and incapable of controlling himself or behaves in a disorderly manner under the influence of drink in any street or thoroughfare or public place or in any place to which public have or permitted to have access, shall on conviction, be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one to three months and with fine which may extend to two hundred to five hundred rupees.


The licensing part for opening a liquor shop is different in different states. Generally the state governments do not grant license at large for public welfare, but due to presence of loop holes in our system and the adverse effects of bureaucracy there are several Indian and foreign brand liquor shops present in well developed cities of our country. Retail supply of alcohol is regulated by Delhi Liquor License Rules, 1976. It prohibits consumption and service of liquor at public places. This also prohibits employment to any person (male under the age of 25 years or any female) at any licensed premises either with or without remuneration in part of such premises in which liquor or intoxicating drug is consumed by the public. Similarly no individual should possess liquor at one time more than the prescribed limit without special permit. As per excise rules in Rajasthan, a person can posses maximum 3 litres of Country Liquor, 6 Litres of IMFL and 12 Bottles of Beer. The Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949, prohibits the production, manufacture, possession, exportation, importation, transportation, purchase, sale, consumption and use of all intoxicants.

Drunken Driving

Drink and Drive is very common problem in India. Famous Bolllywood actor Salman Khan is also accused of this charge. Generally on holidays and festivals, we have seen policemen standing on the roads and checking people with breath analyzers. With rise in blood alcohol concentration, there is progressive loss of driving ability due to increased reaction time, over confidence, impaired concentration, degraded muscle coordination and decreased visual and auditory acuity. Though the laws to check the drunken driving do exist in India but there is need to effectively impose the same on the alcohol impaired drivers. The blood alcohol content (BAC) limits are fixed at 0.03%. Any person whose BAC values are detected more than this limit is booked under the first offense. He/she may be fined about 2000 and\or he or she may face a maximum of 6 months imprisonment. If he person commits a second offense within 3 years of the first then he/she may be fined about 3000 and/or he or she may face a maximum of 2 years imprisonment. On 1 March 2012, the Union Cabinet approved proposed changes to the Motor Vehicle Act. As per the new provisions, drunk driving would be dealt with higher penalty and jail terms – fines ranging from 2,000 to 10,000 and imprisonment from 6 months to 4 years. Drink driving will be graded according to alcohol levels in the blood. In cases where alcohol level is less than 30 mg per 100 ml of blood, it doesn’t amount to as an offence. For levels between 30-60 mg per 100 ml of blood, the proposed penalty would be 6 months of imprisonment and/or 2,000 as fine. For alcohol level between 60-150 mg per 100 ml of blood, the penalty would be one year imprisonment and/or 4,000. If the offence is repeated within three years, the penalty can go up to 3 years imprisonment and/or 8,000. For those who are found heavily drunk with alcohol levels of over 150 mg per 100 ml of blood, the penalty will be 2 years imprisonment and or 5,000. Repeat offence within a three year period would warrant a jail penalty and fine of 10,000 besides cancellation of license.

Legal Drinking Age in India

The legal drinking age in India and the laws which regulate the sale and consumption of alcohol vary significantly.

States/UT Legal Drinking Ages States/UT Legal Drinking Ages
Andhra Pradesh 21 Madhya Pradesh 18
Arunachal Pradesh 21 Meghalaya 25
Assam 25 Mizoram Illegal
Bihar 21 Orissa 21
Chandigarh 25 Puducherry 18
Delhi 25 Punjab 25
Goa 18 Rajasthan 18
Gujarat Illegal Sikkim 18
Haryana 18 Tamil Nadu 21
Himachal Pradesh 18 Uttar Pradesh 18
Jammu and Kashmir 21 Uttrakhand 21
Jharkhand 21 West Bengal 21
Karnataka 21 Manipur Illegal
Kerala 21 Lakshadweep Illegal
Maharashtra 25

In spite of legal restrictions, alcohol consumption in India has risen over 55% over a period of 20 years (according to OECD figures).The affordability of alcohol is too low that even people who are not sound economically can consume it and the addiction is such that it corrupts minds. The direct result is suicides, family disruptions and other women related crimes. Alcohol consumption has become a habit of youth and it acts as a compulsion according to the traits of young people in India. Many youngsters consume alcohol due to peer pressure. Drinking occasionally is good and can be countered with the societal laws but excessive drinking not only is bad for health but also gives a passage to crimes endeavoring in the criminal minds. The increasing western culture is affecting Indian society at large and some political organizations wants to lower the drinking age which will directly affect the crime rates. A large part of nation’s economy is wasted in alcohol consumption which can be used for education purpose. Alcohol consumption not only takes us away from the reality but is also degrading the ethics and culture of Indian society.

Submitted By-

Amay Bajaj