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The state government recently announced the permissible age for liquor consumption as 25 years. But this has been the rule according to the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949 for some years now
The Maharashtra government's recent announcement of the permissible age limit for liquor consumption is a classic case of 'old wine in a new bottle'.
According to the so-called 'new policy', the permissible age for liquor consumption is 25 years, while those who have crossed the age of 21 will be allowed to consume beer. Wine has been excluded from the category of liquor. The state cabinet cleared this proposal under the new de-addiction policy.
Since the announcement, the policy is being talked about in the media. Youngsters who have been interviewed about the policy have expressed their displeasure over the age provision. However, they seem to be unaware that the age stipulation (of 25 years) has been in existence for some time now under the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949.
Moneylife reported on 13 May 2010 how, despite the permissible drinking age at 25, bars, pubs and wine shops have notices declaring that alcohol would not be sold to anyone below the age of 21. (Read, "Alcohol laws in Maharashtra could drive you to drink".)
According to the law, in Maharashtra a liquor permit is necessary to purchase, possess, transport, or consume liquor. It says that "any person above the age of 25 years is eligible to obtain the liquor permit for preservation and maintenance of his health. Purchase and drinking without a liquor permit is an offence under the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949."
The question that arises is, why has the government made it mandatory now, when there already exists a law that clearly states the permissible age for consumption of alcohol?
Consumer activists question the viability of this policy, as guzzlers have consistently flouted the law, and this is evident from the number of under-age alcohol drinkers.
An officer of the state excise department, speaking to Moneylife, said that "the permissible age limit has always been there, though there was little awareness about it."
Doubtless, it is a disappointment for many youngsters who have a preference for hard liquors. "First, they increased the prices, and now they have increased the permissible age limit. I enjoy my drinks and am capable of handling myself. Instead, much larger issues should be addressed," said a 23-year-old freelancer.
Moneylife has sent a message to the chief minister of Maharashtra, asking whether the department was aware that there already existed a law on the permissible age for liquor consumption. There was no reply up to the time of filing this report.