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SC says the young drink too much, time for detox

THE SUPREME Court has frowned upon "liquor addiction" among the "younger generation" and urged the government to work towards gradually reducing the consumption of liquor. It wants the goal of prohibition -- as enshrined in Article 47 of the Constitution -- to be achieved over time.

india Updated: May 03, 2006 01:29 IST

THE SUPREME Court has frowned upon "liquor addiction" among the "younger generation" and urged the government to work towards gradually reducing the consumption of liquor. It wants the goal of prohibition -- as enshrined in Article 47 of the Constitution -- to be achieved over time.

"It's a notorious fact, of which we can take judicial notice, that more and more of the younger generation in this country is getting addicted to liquor," the court said on Tuesday. "It has not only become a fashion to consume it but it has also become an obsession with very many. Surely we do not need an indolent nation."

The observations came in a judgment delivered by a two-judge bench, comprising justices S.B. Sinha and P.K. Balasubramanyan. They wondered why the state should be "encouraging, that too practically unrestrictedly, the trade of liquor" in the face of Article 47.

A Directive Principle of State Policy, Article 47 embodies the Gandhian ideology of shunning liquor. It is not enforceable through a court of law. The article calls upon the state to bring about prohibition in the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs which are injurious to health in the interest of general public health.

"The only excuse for the state for not following the mandate of Article 47 of the Constitution is that huge revenue is generated by this trade and such revenue is being used for meeting the financial needs of the state," said the court. 

In this context, the court observed that the monopoly of the liquor trade had been vested with the state.

"Article 47 clearly casts a duty on the state at least to reduce the consumption of liquor in the state, gradually leading to prohibition itself," it said. "It appears right to point out that the time has come for the states and the Union government to seriously think of taking steps to achieve the goal set by Article 47."

The bench was disposing of a special leave petition filed by the state of Maharashtra against an interim order of the Bombay HC favouring Nagpur distilleries -- which held a wholesale licence under the Maharashtra Distillation of Spirit and Manufacture of Potable Liquor Rules, 1966.

In its interim order the HC had stayed the recovery of certain fees due from the company for the purchase of rectified spirit to manufacture Indian-made foreign liquor.

The Supreme Court set this order aside and directed the company to pay 50 per cent of the fees by December 31 of every year, till the HC decided the matter.

Justifying its order, the court said: "This would enable the government to realise a part of the revenue which alone appears to be the motive in permitting the trade in liquor, notwithstanding the mandate of Article 47."