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#WhatLawSays: The legal implications of drinking in public places

In the last of our three-part series, #WhatLawSays, we focus on the law on drinking in public places in Delhi.

delhi Updated: Apr 28, 2017 16:27 IST
Abhinav Verma
Abhinav Verma
Hindustan Times
What the law says,Drinking in public spaces,MCD elections
Drinking from the back of a person’s car is common sight in the Capital.

Last week, Delhiites followed the old adage, where there is a will, there is a way to the T, when MCD elections hit the Capital. As per rules, last Wednesday was a dry day and the next weekend followed suit. However, this didn’t stop Delhi’s jugaad junta from doing their own ‘car-o-bar’ (drinking in the car). HT City in a report had brought you a first-person account of how the city survived the dry day. Now, we tell you what the law says about drinking in public places.

Consumption of Alcohol in Public Places

The Law (in Delhi):

Section 40 of the Delhi Excise Act, 2009 says that if a person is found to

(a) consume liquor in a public place;

(b) consume liquor in public place and creates nuisance; and/or

(c) permits drunkenness or allows assembly of unsocial elements on the premises of liquor establishment; shall be punishable under law.

1) In case of an offence falling under clause(a), a fine, which may extend to Rs 5000, may be levied.

2) In case of an offence falling under clause(b), imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months and fine that may extend to Rs1000 may be levied.

3) In case of an offence falling under clause(c), imprisonment for a term that may extend to six months and a fine up to Rs 50,000 may be levied.

Supreme Court judgement on Alcohol Consumption

Commenting on the consumption of alcohol in public places (specifically in respect of drunken driving), the Supreme Court in the case of State v. Sanjeev Nanda, (2012) 8 SCC 450 observed as under:

“86. Drunken driving has become a menace to our society. Every day, drunken driving results in accidents and several human lives are lost, pedestrians in many of our cities are not safe. Late night parties among urban elites have now become a way of life followed by drunken driving. Alcohol consumption impairs consciousness and vision and it becomes impossible to judge accurately how far away the objects are. When depth perception deteriorates, eye muscles lose their precision causing inability to focus on the objects. Further, in more unfavourable conditions like fog, mist, rain, whether it is night or day, it can reduce the visibility of an object to the point of being below the limit of discernibility. In short, alcohol leads to loss of coordination, poor judgment, slowing down of reflexes and distortion of vision.”

The Lawyer’s Opinion:

There is some ambiguity on what constitutes a ‘public place. Thus the issue is complex. If a two friends decide to have a picnic in a public park on a sunny winter afternoon and want to drink a beer, how does that become a nuisance or threat to society? Who decides what is nuisance and how is it caused? The law has been passed to ensure that people, under the influence of alcohol, do not become a menace to the surroundings in a public place, and one should abide by the rules laid by the court.

— Arnav Narain, advocate practising in the Supreme Court of India and an expert on International Human Rights

First Published: Apr 27, 2017 19:44 IST