What should be the legal age for drinking?

Regulation & Legislation

Alcohol is one of the commonly consumed intoxicating substances all over the world. The legal aspects can be summarized under:



World Health Organization’ recommends that member governments should begin to reduce per capita consumption by reducing the availability of alcoholic beverages. Prohibition is incorporated in the Constitution of India among the directive principles of state policy. Article 47 says: “The state shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and standard of living of its people as among its primary duties and in particular, the state shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the use except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.” Alcohol policy is under the legislative power of individual states. Prohibition, enshrined as an aspiration in the Constitution, was introduced and then withdrawn in Haryana and Andhra Pradesh in the midi-1990s, although it continues in Gujarat, with partial restrictions in other states – Delhi, for example, has dry days. There was an earlier failure of prohibition in Tamil Nadu. Excise department regulate and control the sale of liquor in the NCT of Delhi. Retail supply of alcohol is regulated by Delhi Liquor License Rules, 1976. It prohibits consumption and service of liquor at public places. This also prohibits employment to any person (male under the age of 25 years or any female) at any licensed premises either with or without remuneration in part of such premises in which liquor or intoxicating drug is consumed by the public. Similarly no individual should possess liquor at one time more than the prescribed limit without special permit. As per excise rules in Rajasthan, a person can posses maximum 3liters of Country Liquor, 6 Liter of IMFL and 12 Bottles of Beer. The Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949, prohibits the production, manufacture, possession, exportation, importation, transportation, purchase, sale, consumption and use of all intoxicants. The Cable Television Network (Regulation) Amendment Bill, in force September 8, 2000, completely prohibits cigarette and alcohol advertisements. The government controlled channel, Doordarshan, does not broadcast such advertisements but satellite channels however are replete with them.



Drunkenness is defined as the condition produced in a person who has taken alcohol in a quantity sufficient to cause him to lose control of his faculties to such an extent that he is unable to execute the occupation on which he is engaged at the material time. Section 84 of the Bombay Prohibition Act 1949 provides that any person, who is found drunk or drinking in a common drinking house or is found there present for the purpose of drinking, shall on conviction, be punished with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees. Section 85 provides that any person found drunk and incapable of controlling himself or behaves in a disorderly manner under the influence of drink in any street or thoroughfare or public place or in any place to which public have or permitted to have access, shall on conviction, be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one to three months and with fine which may extend to two hundred to five hundred rupees.


Drunken Driving

Across the world, governments have defined different acceptable blood alcohol levels. However, there is no minimum threshold below which alcohol can be consumed without risk. With rise in blood alcohol concentration, there is progressive loss of driving ability due to increased reaction time, over confidence, impaired concentration, degraded muscle coordination and decreased visual and auditory acuity. Though the laws to check the drunken driving do exist in India but there is need to effectively impose the same on the alcohol impaired drivers. The blood alcohol content (BAC) limits are fixed at 0.03%. Any person whose BAC values are detected more than this limit is booked under the first offense. He/she may be fined about  2000 and\or he or she may face a maximum of 6 months imprisonment. If he person commits a second offense within 3 years of the first then he/she may be fined about 3000 and/or he or she may face a maximum of 2 years imprisonment. On 1 March 2012, the Union Cabinet approved proposed changes to the Motor Vehicle Act. As per the new provisions, drunk driving would be dealt with higher penalty and jail terms - fines ranging from 2,000 to 10,000 and imprisonment from 6 months to 4 years. Drink driving will be graded according to alcohol levels in the blood.

In cases where alcohol level is less than 30 mg per 100 ml of blood, it doesn’t amount to as an offence. For levels between 30-60 mg per 100 ml of blood, the proposed penalty would be 6 months of imprisonment and/or 2,000 as fine. For alcohol level between 60-150 mg per 100 ml of blood, the penalty would be one year imprisonment and/or 4,000. If the offence is repeated within three years, the penalty can go up to 3 years imprisonment and/or 8,000. For those who are found heavily drunk with alcohol levels of over 150 mg per 100 ml of blood, the penalty will be 2 years imprisonment and or 5,000. Repeat offence within a three year period would warrant a jail penalty and fine of 10,000 besides cancellation of license.


Alcohol Advertisements

Advertising alcoholic beverages has been banned in India as per the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Amendment Bill which came into effect on 8 September 2000. Private channels often permit alcohol companies to advertise using surrogate means like selling the brand name for soda or water or music.



Lalwani, S., Dogra, T.D. (2005). Legal aspects of drug abuse in India. In R. Lal (Ed.), Substance use disorder: A manual for physicians (pp.  181-189). New Delhi: National Drug Dependence Treatment Center, All India Institute of Medical Sciences

Manifold hike in penalties for traffic violation - Deccan Herald, New Delhi