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The Gujarat Prohibition Act, 1949


Topics Covered:  Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

The Gujarat Prohibition Act, 1949


The Gujarat Prohibition Act, 1949 is being challenged before the Gujarat High Court, more than seven decades after it came into effect as the Bombay Prohibition Act. 


The Gujarat Prohibition Act, 1949: 

Introduced by the then Bombay province as Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949 to overhaul the law relating to intoxicating drugs and narcotics total prohibition. 

  • It is an Act relating to the promotion and enforcement of alcohol prohibition in the Bombay State. 
  • The Bombay state was divided into the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat in 1960. 
  • Gujarat adopted the prohibition policy in 1960 and subsequently chose to enforce it with greater rigidity. 
  • In 2011, it renamed the Act as Gujarat Prohibition Act. 

Please note, the first hint at the 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. 


Rationale behind this law: 

The state government says that it is “committed to the ideals and principles of Mahatma Gandhi and firmly intends to eradicate the menace of drinking liquor.” 


How does the act rule? 

  • Under the Act, a permit is mandatory to purchase, possess, consume or serve liquor. 
  • The Act empowers the police to arrest a person for purchasing, consuming or serving alcohol without the permit with punishment ranging from three months to five years in prison. 


What are the main grounds raised against prohibition of liquor and in favour of prohibition? 

  1. The right of privacy is violated, which was given voice by the Supreme Court in 2017 in Puttaswamy judgment. The Right is associated with the citizens’ right to eat and drink as per their choice. 
  2. Ground of manifest arbitrariness: The law grants health permits and temporary permits to out-of-state tourists. The petition says there are no intelligible differences in the classes thus being created by the state on who gets to drink and who does not and violates the Right to Equality under Article 14 of the Constitution. 


The following arguments indicate that such ban was the need of the hour: 

  1. The Constitution places a responsibility on all state governments to “at least contain, if not curtail, consumption of alcohol” (Article 47). 
  2. Strict state regulation is imperative to discourage regular and excessive consumption of alcohol. 
  3. Alcohol denudes family resources and reserves and leaves women and children as its most vulnerable victims. A social stigma at least as far as the family unit is concerned is still attached to the consumption of alcohol. 
  4. Vulnerable persons, either because of age or proclivity towards intoxication or as a feature of peer pressure, more often than not, succumb to this temptation. 



Do you remember the Doctrine of Reasonable Classification? Read Here(Briefly)



Prelims Link: 

  1. Key Provisions. 
  2. Exceptions. 
  3. Punishments. 
  4. Other states that have banned sale of alcohol. 


Mains Link: 

Discuss the Concerns associated with Gujarat Prohibition Act, 1949. 


Sources: Indian Express.