Split Side of Alcohol Ban Augmenting Crime and Deteriorating Livelihood

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Author : Tanu Rathor
Published on : August 04, 2017

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Split Side of Alcohol Ban Augmenting Crime and Deteriorating Livelihood

“Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy”-Frank Sinatra

‘Please don't click the photos of cartons. We are not selling any liquor here now. I am jobless once again. The government should come forward to rehabilitate us,’ says Des Raj

Des Raj is a 40 years salesman, was working in Shahabad Markanda liquor vends which have been closed. He was earning ten thousand per month and feeding his six children (four daughters and two sons), who will now face a harsh future because their father is jobless now. He had chosen this profession 18 years back.

The order of banning alcohol was passed by the Supreme Court on a PIL filed by "Arrive Safe" NGO which said nearly 1.42 lakh people died annually on roads in India because of accidents, drunken driving being a major contributor to this high toll of human lives. The Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice of India T.S Thakur, and Justices D.Y. Chandrachund, and L. Nageswara Rao banned sales of liquor in States and Union Territories along National and State Highways across India. ‘The license after 31st March 2017 will not be renewed’ the bench said. The judgment ordered liquor vends to move 500m away from high populated highways, and 220m away from highways where the population is less than 20,000. Also, the shops should not be visible from highways. The apex court maintained that its verdict of banning of sales of alcohol will extend to pubs, bars, and hotels too.

Seizing of Fundamental Rights

The Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution says “every person shall carry any occupation, trade, and business.” But Supreme Court is seizing their fundamental right by banning alcohol. There is a huge loss of income and source of livelihood to people like Des Raj who were working in this industry for decades. Around 25,000 people will be jobless in Haryana itself. Consequently, unemployment will invite crimes like kidnapping and stealing. So, now it will be government’s duty to rehabilitate unemployed people.

“In my opinion, the right to drink alcohol, like a responsible citizen, is a part of the right to privacy” observed Justice Navaniti Prasad Singh, who believes alcohol is like drinking water and hence a basic fundamental right protected by the Constitution. Article 21 guarantees ‘Right to privacy’ under the Indian Constitution which is also getting violated by banning liquor. Every adult should be allowed to make his/her own responsible decision about food and beverage intake. In the leading case, R.Rajagopal vs. State of Tamil Nadu Supreme Court observed: “The right to privacy is implicit in the right to life and liberty guaranteed to the citizens of this country by Article 21. It is a “right to be let alone”. A citizen has a right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, child-bearing and education among other matters.” If banning alcohol is a matter of health then junk food shall also be banned. Like in the UK every year 40,000 people die of eating junk food and in India, the trend of junk food is certainly growing in massive proportion.

Effects on Tourism

In 2015, the travel and tourism sector in India had contributed Rs8.22 trillion i.e., 7 per cent of India’s Gross Domestic Product. Prohibiting the consumption of alcohol had a very obstructive effect on tourism. The Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH) said that establishments approved in the tourism category primarily exist for conferences, lodges and dining out experience, none of these promote liquor consumption outside their premises. Almost 9 million tourists visit India every year along with almost 1.8 million domestic visitations. This will be put to risk if the overall food and beverage experience are compromised.

“The US gets around 2 billion domestic tourism, implying eight trips per citizen and 70 million foreign tourists. India gets 9 million tourism and 1.1 domestic tourism visits per citizens. Indian tourism’s hopes of highways-driven tourism model will come to stands still” FAITH added.

Impact on Economy

Highways of Mumbai, Delhi, and Gurugram have gone dry, resulting in the worst hit in the economy of states. The sale of liquor contributes the huge amount in states directly through tax. The Liquor tax is imposed on the sale of liquor. States like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Punjab earn a large portion of their revenue from the State Excise. Supreme Court ruling that banned liquor near highway had adversely affected revenues of states. The ban has cut 25 per cent of state revenue and the net borrowing of the states has risen up to 12 per cent.

India’s budget revenues of 29 state worth 20 trillion in the year 2015-16 figures from the Reserve bank of India. According to brokerage Motilal Oswal Securities Ltd., this year the drop will be hit by 5trillion rupees. Like tourism, liquor ban had drastically affected our state economies too.

View of Attorney General
Kerala state government implemented a new policy to reduce the consumption of liquor. Mukul Rohatgi is representing Kerala liquor bars in Supreme Court, which have been restricted by the state government liquor policies.
The 59-year-old attorney general told the Court that he is appearing for the petitioners - Kerala liquor bars in his private capacity. Attorney General usually represents State or Centre in the court. The petitioners also said that if the policy was aimed towards total prohibition, the petitioners would not have any problems, but in the name of policy whether the State could discriminate. Mr. Rohatgi has taken permission from the government to represent private party, not State. The government of states had opposed the ban citing huge loss of revenue. The State of Kerala had got a similar response from Rohatgi after it sought his views.

Other states are expecting relief as well. The IT hub of Gurugram has 89 liquor vends, 143 pubs, several bars, hotels and restaurants close to the highways and the order created a panic among hotel and restaurant owners. Many of them sent representations to the state government and also filed applications before the Supreme Court. The Gurugram’s excise department had identified pubs and liquor vends in the red zone. The Supreme Court had adjourned the case to 28th June 2017.

Fundamental Right or Directive Principle

According to Article 37, the Directive Principles, though they are fundamental in governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the States to apply these principles in making law, they are expressly made non-justiciable in nature on the other the hand fundamental rights are justifiable in nature as given under Article 32 of the Constitution. In the State of Madras v. Champakam Dorairajan, the Supreme Court observed:

“The Directive Principle of the State Policy, which by Article 37 are expressly made unenforceable by Courts cannot override the provisions found in Part III which, notwithstanding other are expressly made enforceable by appropriate writs, orders or directions under Article 32.” It has been held in several cases that Directive Principles are unenforceable and in the case of conflict between directive principle and fundamental right, the latter will avail.

Article 47 of Indian Constitution says that “It’s the Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health”. Nevertheless, it is the duty of the State to enforce directive principle, not a job of Judiciary to force the government to implement them. This is certainly against ‘Separation of Powers’.

From the above-stated points it is clear that ‘alcohol ban’ had drastically affected employment opportunities. The biggest challenge before our country is to provide employment to the young generation. In such scenario, bar and restaurant industries are the huge source of employment for our country’s young generation. Secondly, all over the world economists are of the view prohibiting intoxicants leads mafia and criminal gang or people start making liquor at home. In 2009, around 43 people died in the Kerala due to the consumption of the home made alcohol. Prohibition or curbing alcohol consumption will cause problems in future. Neither is it the Judiciary’s duty to impose Directive Principles on States nor, it is an extreme case under Article 142 of the Constitution.