It is a "wrong notion" that the minimum prescribed age for drinking liquor is 25 years under the Delhi Excise Act which only prohibits its sale to people below that age, the Delhi High Court ruled on Thursday.
The court passed the verdict while dismissing a petition seeking to set aside and quash Section 23 of Delhi Excise Act, 2009 on the ground that it prescribes 25 years as legal age for buying and drinking alcohol in Delhi.
"The age of drinking has nothing to do with the prohibition imposed by the Delhi government under the Excise Act. We see no reason to quash Section 23 of the Act which prohibits a licensee to sell or deliver liquor to a person of less than 25 years of age," said a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and C Hari Shankar.
The section states that "No person or licensed vendor or his employee or agent shall sell or deliver any liquor to any person apparently under the age of twenty five years, whether for consumption by self or others."
The bench said: "The petitioner has assumed that it is the age of drinking. It a wrong notion in the mind of the petitioner. We see no reason to quash the said section. There is no substance in the petition and, therefore, it is dismissed."
According to lawyers privy to the case, no other provision of the Delhi Excise Act specifies the minimum age of consuming alcohol in the national capital.
The court was hearing the plea filed by lawyer Kush Kalra in which he also sought to know as to what steps the Delhi government has taken towards prohibiting and regulating the sale and supply of alcohol to persons under the age of 25 years in the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
Regarding the submission of the petitioner's counsel that the legal age to drink alcohol in Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Telangana and Jharkhand was 21, and in Rajasthan, Sikkim and Puducherry it was 18, the bench said it is not obligatory for the state of Delhi to follow what is prescribed by the law of other states.
The petition has said, "A person coming to Delhi from a state which legalises drinking at the age of 18 years is likely to continue consuming alcohol thus criminalising their behaviour. On the other hand, young persons from Delhi travel to states which have lower legal ages to consume alcohol which raises the question how a person by moving his/her location becomes responsible."
It has said that according to reports, about 67 per cent of the population in the age group of 18-25 years purchased alcohol from liquor vends but are never asked for age proof.
It has sought directions to the Delhi government to conduct awareness programmes on responsible consumption of alcohol among college and school going students by including it in the curriculum.