Gujarat Prohibition Act 1949


 A petition has been filed in the Gujarat High Court challenging the Gujarat Prohibition Act, 1949. This law had come into being as Bombay Prohibition Act.


 The Bombay Abkari Act, 1878 was the first such law that aimed to control liquor business in the state. It majorly dealt in levying duties on sale of such intoxicants.

History of Act:

  • The first attempt of  prohibition of liquor was through the Bombay Abkari Act, 1878. This Act dealt with levying of duties on intoxicants, among other things and aspects of prohibition via amendments made in 1939 and 1947.
  • Then in 1940, the government reconsidered the question of prohibition and it was decided to undertake and enforce a policy of “total prohibition” in the whole of the Province of Bombay on the basis of a four-year plan.
  • The government deemed it fit to “remove the defects and bring within the orbit of the Act many offences which went unpunished under the law,” and in order to enforce the policy of total prohibition “effectually,” it was considered to “overhaul the law relating to intoxicating drugs and narcotics and to embody the same into one legislative enactment,” leading to the birth of Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949. However, the statement does not explain why such a prohibition law was deemed to be necessary in the first place.
  • Advocate General Kamal Trivedi over the course of hearings on maintainability had submitted that the “that law did not intend to create complete prohibition” and had referred to constitutional debates emphasizing on prohibition so as to raise standards of health.
  • While following the reorganization of Bombay province into the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat in 1960 there was continued amendment and liberalization in the state of Maharashtra, especially in 1963, on the ground that liberalization of the law was necessary to check the business of illicit liquor.
  • Gujarat adopted the prohibition policy since 1960 and subsequently chose to enforce it with greater rigidity, but also made processes easier for foreign tourists and visitors to get liquor permits.
  • In 2011, it renamed the Act as Gujarat Prohibition Act. By the state’s own admission in affidavits before the Gujarat HC, the government found that the policy was not working effectively and thus amendments were made through an ordinance in 2016. In the statement of objects and reasons of this amendment, it was stated that the state government was “committed to the ideals and principles of Mahatma Gandhi and firmly intends to eradicate the menace of drinking liquor.”

Challenging petition

Petitions have been filed against the Bombay Foreign Liquor Rules, 1953 and Gujarat Prohibition Act, 1949 as it is argued that they were not part of constitutional process.

Grounds on filing petition

  • The petitions have been filed on two grounds: the first on right to privacy, which has been termed a fundamental right by the Supreme Court.

  • The second ground is regarding granting of temporary permits for tourists from outside the state. This has been termed a violation of right to equality.

  • The petitioners argue that by controlling food and dietary habits of citizens, the state is encroaching on the individual choices and freedom.

Way ahead

  • The Gujarat HC will verify if it comes under its domain to examine the law and undertake detailed study.

  • If the HC feels that it has no right to hear on the matter, the litigants will have to go to the Supreme Court to challenge the law.

Source: The Hindu

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