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Bizarre Drinking Laws Around the World That Inspired Indian Government No Uniform Legal Drinking Age



Consumption of liquor in the Indian subcontinent has remained a boiling issue for several centuries and being a land of people believing and following diverse cultures, religion and tradition has different virtues and moral beliefs. It has logically followed the age-old saying, “no everyone can fit into the same shoe”, and hence being a secular nation, India never tried fitting its entire population in a single frame of law.


An appropriate example is the existence of different personal laws for people following different religions. India follows the principle of Unity in Diversity and hence every state has its challenges. Considering the diverse needs of various regions, the constitution-makers have put some of the items on the state list. The state has exclusive power to make laws according to their specific region.


Alcohol is the anaesthesia that helps in enduring the operations of life. Often defined as “colourless volatile liquid” alcohol is produced by natural fermentation of sugars present in the varieties of fruits and grains. Besides being an intoxicating constituent of spirits, beer, wine, and other drinks, it is used as an industrial solvent and fuel.

The age of alcohol is as old as the various religions of the world and the use of it has ever been a contentious issue. It always existed in the society, either in the form of “Madira” in the traditional Indian society or the form of the finest beer of the modern world. Researchers state that our ancestors have begun evolving the knack for the consumption of several alcoholic beverages about 10 million years ago, long before the brewing booze began. The ability to break down alcohol helped our ancestors make the most out of the rotting, fermented fruits falling onto the forest floor.


While some countries of the world have imposed a complete ban on the consumption of alcohol, others have set a ban against the principles of liberty and freedom of making choices. However, except for the role of alcohol has on health, the debatable questions about consumption of alcohol are based on the way it is perceived psychologically.


Focusing on the report about worldwide consumption of alcohol, published by the Global status on Alcohol and Health, in the year 2005, every person consumed an average of 6.13 litre of alcohol. India as a constitutional democracy has been facing the dilemma of either promoting the liberty of an individual or regulating the consumption of it in the light of peaceful existence of society, health and the socio-cultural norms played by the beverages.


Approximately, 30% of the Indian population consumes alcohol, out of which 5-13% consumes daily. The dilemma regarding the consumption of alcoholic beverages has been undergone discussions in the constitutional assembly. Shockingly, the arguments were advanced in the support and opposition of banning it. Statistics show that the consumption level of alcohol in the country has increased by 55% in the last five years and continues to increase without any hesitation. The Indian government needs to strengthen the existing laws and increase awareness about its consumption.


Every state is either making their own or changing the existing laws according to its population, sociocultural history, and beliefs. Lack of uniformity in ages for consumption has created turmoil, which can only be achieved when there is a uniform law. These loopholes have inspired several intellects for digging deep into the existing problem.


For instance, a 23-year-old person attending a concert in Mumbai along with his or her friends reaches the box office for obtaining an LDA band for purchasing alcohol in the venue, will need to bring out the identity card and present it to the authorities at the counter. This is when he will tell you that the person has to be 25 years old for getting the band. Even when the person can request for a beer as it is legal for a 21-year-old person, the authorities will not allow as the drinking age is above 25 years according to their permit. In India, it is quite tricky for a person who is in his early 20’s drinking alcohol outside. While the clubs allow and serve people in their early 20s to booze, most of the venues especially concerts don’t let people drink unless they are 25.

While people in India are considered mature enough to vote as well as a drive when they turn 18, the Maharashtra government has raised the minimum age for consumption of alcoholic beverages such as rum, whiskey, vodka and country-made liquor in the state to 25 years. However, people can consume beer when they 21. Incidentally, the Indian states of Haryana and Meghalaya have also maintained the same age of 25.


The states of unbroken Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal allow people to purchase and consume alcohol at the bar once they turn 21. Kerala, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka have considered 18 years old well enough for handling liquor. However, places like Gujarat and Mizoram have legally prohibited people from purchasing and consumption of alcohol.


However, the neighbouring Asian country of Nepal fixed the drinking age to 24, while further in the north, the land of China and the eastern country of Singapore considers 18 years to deal with alcohol. The minimum drinking age in Japan and South Korea have fixed at 20 and 19 respectively. Drinking is prohibited in most of the Islamic countries; however, the non-Muslims living in Pakistan are allowed to consume alcoholic beverages over the age of 21.


Almost all African countries, except Egypt and Sudan, hold that 18 years old responsible enough for consuming alcohol. The countries of Latin America, Oceania, and Europe consisting of Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, France, Republic of Ireland, Poland, Slovenia, and Slovakia have fixed the drinking age at 18. A purchaser of wine or beer must be 16 years old and spirits must be 18 years old in the countries of Austria, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

16-year-olds can buy as well as a drink or even work at a place selling wine in European countries of Italy and Portugal. The Scandinavian countries, other than Denmark, the minimum drinking age is fixed at 18, however, in fact, these rights are limited up to the age of 20. The purchasers of alcoholic beverages in Iceland and Sweden must be 20 years, though people of 18 and 19 are allowed to consume.


Finland and Norway allow 18 years old for lighter and less concentrated drinks, while the high concentrated drinks can be consumed when a person reaches 21years old. The legal age of purchasing alcohol containing 1.2 to 16.5 per cent alcohol in Denmark is 16 years in shops and 18 years in restaurants and bars, though consumption and possession of alcohol is legal at all ages.


The rules vary in the Scandinavian countries and follow certain specific norms because historically alcoholism continues to be one of the major problems in the countries. Even today, in Sweden the state-owned liquor shops shut down at 3 pm on paydays. This practice prohibits people to waste their money on alcohol after their shifts at 4 pm.


The United Kingdom has unique laws and the minimum age for purchasing is 18 years in a bar or from any off-license establishment, however, even children turning 5 years can consume alcoholic beverages in private. In England, Scotland and Wales, persons over 16 consume beer, wine, cider or perry along with a table meal when bought by an adult.


With the passage of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984, the legal age for consumption and possession of alcoholic beverages has been increased to 21 years in the United States. Seventeen states (including Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Wyoming) along with the District of Columbia prohibit minors from possessing alcohol, however, they can consume it. Fourteen states (consisting of Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Wisconsin, and Virginia) permit minors to drink alcohol that are bought to them by their parents or relatives or people trusted by their parents under the age of 21 for religious or health reasons. Puerto Rico, the only territory of the US has maintained 18 years as the legal age for consuming alcohol.


Lack of a centralized process to maintain a uniform law about drinking alcohol is the main reason behind the varied ages of consumption of alcoholic beverages in India. Article 47(6) of the constitution, has empowered each state with the power the exercise of the prohibition of the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs as it is dangerous to the health conditions of humans.


The state not only has the power to regulate the consumption but also can impose limitations and restrictions on the trading and business of liquor as a beverage. Alcohol is a commodity whose demand is rising in the state at an alarming rate and even being a subject on the state list lacks uniformity of law.


It is a general fact when a person is restricted from doing a particular action, the probability of doing that highly increases and the issue is similar to alcoholic beverages. Even banning its consumption failed is proving a significant step in decreasing the consumption of alcohol.


The restrictions and limitations imposed by the government led to the smuggling of liquor with more smugglers at the borders of the state. In 2017, alcohol worth Rs. 2 crores were confiscated by the Rajasthan police who were been taken to Gujarat and about 2,500 cartoons were found by the Dholpur police being transported in two trucks.


After conducting vast researches and studies, intellectuals are of the view of laying a middle path for the drinking age. If the age is too high or too less, undoubtedly there will be several flaws within it. The lawmakers have considered neither the age of 18 or 25, but 21 as the most suitable age for drinking.


It is reported that most of the crimes performed at the age of 18, most of its roots lie in the overconsumption of alcohol. This causes the brain to lose control of the body. Another drawback of having 18 as the legal age is that most people at this age are attending schools and colleges. The majority of people at this particular juncture are dependent on the finance of their parents, as they aren’t economically advanced to earn theirs.


In the case of 25, the effectiveness of the proposed law as a uniform age is distressing. As per reports, the average age at which people consume alcohol is 19-25. The autonomy of the youngsters below the age of 25 would be highly neglected by the government, thereby claiming them incapable and irresponsible. Imposing 25 as the minimum age for alcohol consumption would lose independence and respect as a responsible citizen of the country, which is unacceptable. The decision will take control over the lifestyle if the younger section by neglecting their interests and wishes, thereby reflecting the paternalistic behaviour of the government.


The Indian Government wishes to follow the laws stated by the United States. As per the reports of the US, most of the road accidents involve the age group of 18-20 causes most drinking and driving cases. However, the current data shows that with the increase of the legal age to 21 years, there is a 28% decrease in automobile crashes annually.


Moreover, the annual consumption of alcohol aged above 15 in India was 32.1 litres in males and 10.6 litres in females. However, the consumption of alcoholic beverages affects directly on a person’s moral and social behaviour and maturity is required for consuming it.


In the era of diversification, it is quite hard from restricting someone. When a person has an alternate medium of consuming things, he or she is likely to incline and depend on the same. The nation must ensure that the loopholes of the laws are filled. Ideally, if all the states have a uniform age of drinking, there are fewer chances of smuggling and black marketing.


The uniform drinking age is the need of the hour. With the flaunt in diversity, India needs to protect the same and for the law, that deals with the primary issues must be centralized for better and robust regulations. Right to liquor along with the laws pertaining to the right to vote, right to drive, right to marry should also have a uniform age as well as a national policy dealing with the laws relating to alcohol.


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