"State like Gujarat, Bihar, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Nagaland and Manipur has already taken steps to prohibit the liquor and other intoxicating drinks and drugs. Other States should also take steps to check the menace of liquors and other intoxicating drinks and drugs in spirit of Article 47 read with Article 21, 38, 39, 46, 47 and 51A."
BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has moved the Supreme Court seeking prohibition of consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs, except for medicinal purposes, in spirit of Article 47 of the Constitution.
The petition, filed through Advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey, states that access to liquor must be restricted, especially during the Covid crisis, as the same is a "psychoactive substance" and citizens who have alcoholic disorder are vulnerable when in self-isolation.
"Liquor has been flying off shelves as people try to combat boredom in this period. The spike in Liquor sales has alarmed health experts and officials around the world, who are concerned that increased drinking could make people even more vulnerable to the respiratory disease," the plea states.
The plea highlights various health hazards associated with alcohol that can diminish a person's immune response and put them more at risk for COVID. In this backdrop it is asserted that Article 47 read with Articles 21, 38, 39, 46, 51A, casts a duty on the State to take steps to improve immune system of citizens.
"The healthier a person's immune system is, the quicker it can clear out a virus and recover from a disease like COVID-19. By default, alcohol makes it harder for immune system to gear up and defend body against harmful germs," the Petitioner has asserted.
Thus, to discourage the consumption of alcohol he has sought for introduction of an "effective health warning" that covers at least 50% of liquor bottles/ containers on both sides and print intoxicating drinks related health hazards on it in Hindi and English languages.
Further, he seeks insertion of a chapter on health hazards of intoxicating drinks in syllabus of primary classes in spirit of right to health & education guaranteed under Articles 21 and 21A of the Constitution.
The Petitioner states that policy of granting licenses for opening of liquor stores is so "generous" in India that there are more liquor vends than primary schools and health centers.
He has therefore asserted that the State should be directed to frame a "Liquor Prohibition Policy" to limit the number of licenses, trade hours; and launch an aggressive Anti-Alcohol Campaign through electronic, print and social media.
Alcohol is a "social evil"
Inter alia, the plea points out that consumption of liquor and other intoxicating drinks is the "root cause" behind spike in road accidents, domestic violence cases and crime against women.
"High rates of alcoholism correlate with high crime rates. Major crimes and accidents are fuelled by alcohol, which also leads to sexual harassment and robberies," the Petitioner states while pleading that the risk of consuming intoxicating drinks must be communicated to all citizens through electronic, print and social media.
Right to life supersedes privilege of trading in alcohol
The Petitioner has claimed that the state cannot claim that it has the "privilege" to manufacture and sale alcoholic beverages, at the cost of its citizens' lives.
It is submitted that the right to transfer or sale this privilege on consideration to earn the revenue without thinking that the trade in liquor ultimately results in degradation of human life, to the extent of endangering it is contrary to the duty cast upon the welfare state, under the Constitution.
"Imposing prohibition on trade of intoxicating liquor is to achieve the directive principles administrated in the Article 47; as such, a course merits is treated as a reasonable restriction. Hon'ble Supreme Court has held that a law of prohibition cannot be challenged on the ground of contravention of the Article 19(1)(g)," the plea states.
On a related note, the High Court of Madras recently dismissed a petition seeking absolute ban on manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol in the state of Tamil Nadu. The division bench of Dr. Justice Vineet Kothari and Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana held that regulation of alcohol is purely a matter of state policy that does not warrant judicial interference. Further, it pointed out that Article 47 is not an "enforceable provision" and thus, the petition has no leg to stand.
Click Here To Download Petition