The Hon’ble High Court of Gujarat has changed its order on the maintainability of a petition against the old liquor prohibition in the states recently.
The petitioners in the instant matter made this challenge against the old liquor prohibition on the ground of emergence of the right to privacy which was not available in 1950 when the ban was first challenged. The petitioner in the challenge contended that the right to privacy also includes the right to consume alcohol and the right to be left alone. This new development made the Hon’ble Supreme Court and various Hon’ble High Courts revisit their orders that dealt with various enactments, prohibiting/ restricting the sale and consumption of alcohol over the years.
In the case of State of Bombay versus. FN Balsara, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the year 1951 discussed the matter of vires of the Bombay Prohibition Act,1949. Herein Section 12 and 13 of the Bombay Prohibition Act,1949 look into the prohibition on sale, manufacture, consumption. etc. of liquor within the State. This Act was adopted later by the state of Gujarat in 1960.
The Hon’ble Court finally held that restrictions imposed on the possession, sale, use, and consumption of liquor by section 12 and section 13 are not reasonable restrictions as to the fundamental right. In other words, Sections 12 and 13 of the Act are held to be invalid only to the medicinal extent and toilet preparations containing alcohol. The remaining provision was right and thus is held valid.
The Hon’ble Patna High Court Bench constating of Hon’ble Chief Justice IA Ansari and Hon’ble Justice Navaniti Prasad Singh held that the policy was perverse on the following grounds:
- excessive delegation;
- the policy conflicted with the Bihar Government’s New Excise Policy, 2015, which imposed a complete prohibition on the sale and consumption of liquor in the state, ‘in a phased manner;
- contravene with Section 19(4) of the Bihar Excise Act, 2018.
However, the Hon’ble Judges delivered conflicting opinions on the question of an individual citizen has a right of choice as to how he wanted to live, what he wants to eat, and what he wants to drink, as a part of the right of privacy as contemplated under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is interesting to note.