- The Constitution of India while considering the need and importance of work, has guaranteed a fundamental right under Article 19 (1) (g). The article gives the right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade, or business to all the citizens.
- However, India has many restrictions to carry a liquor business or to advertise alcohol on moral grounds.
- It has been argued that dealing in intoxicating liquors cannot be the object of private rights, and are therefore not open to being traded. The ground for such argument is that the business is immoral and harmful in nature. Keeping in consideration the nature of the business, the state can either create a monopoly in itself or manufacture, possess, sale and distribute liquor as a beverage.
- It is not enough to restrict liquor trade, there is also a need to minimize its consumption. This is because it is bad for health and also a constitutional obligation (article 47).
WHETHER LIQUOR TRADE IS TRADE OR NOT?
In the case of Synthetics and Chemicals Limited vs. the State of Uttar Pradesh, a large Bench of the Court while reviewing the ruling observed that ‘intoxicating liquors’ means and refers to only potable liquors. The state has exclusive power over the production, manufacture, possession, and fall of such liquor. It was also observed that the state does not have legislative power over non-potable liquors.
In another case of Cooverjee vs. Excise Commissioner, Ajmer the Supreme Court held that no one has the basic right to sell intoxicating liquors in retail sales. No such privilege is given to any citizen. The reason behind this is that the business can be dangerous to the community and therefore the state may entirely prohibit it or allow it only under certain conditions.
In the case of Khoday Distilleries vs. the State of Karnataka, the Court observed that a citizen has no fundamental right to trade or business in intoxicating liquors. The Court further stated that such business can be completely prohibited.
While giving out this judgment, the Court stated that Article 47 of the Constitution states that it is the State’s primary duty to ensure that the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people keeps rising for improvement of public health. The State shall aspire to prohibit consumption of intoxicating drinks except for medicinal purposes.
This decision had a completely different view if we will compare it with the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Krishan Kumar vs. State of Jammu and Kashmir. In this case, the SC had observed that the state cannot limit the scope of the right to trade by prohibiting liquor trade, but it can impose restrictions on the ground of morality.
In the case of the State of Andhra Pradesh vs. McDowell and Company, it was argued that even though trade in intoxicating substances falls under the purview of Article 19(g) of the Indian Constitution, the State can still impose restrictions or prohibitions on the trade.
In the State of Tamil Nadu vs. K Balu, it was observed that even though duties levied on the sale of liquor are an important revenue source for the government, such revenue shall not be collected at the cost of endangering human lives and safety.
In the case of Ugar Sugar works limited vs. Delhi Administration, it was stated that if a reasonable restriction on trade of liquor is found irrational or erratic, then Article 14 of the Indian Constitution (right to equality) can be invoked. The three judge bench presided by Chief Justice Khehar observed that Article 19 (1) (g) does not include trade in liquor which is regarded as rex extra commercium.
STAKEHOLDERS AND THEIR RESPONSIBILTY
It is the duty of the police to ensure that the illegal liquor trade is banned. Many women are exploited in such businesses and this results in a violation of their human rights. It is also important that this duty is done in an unbiased manner.
State and Central Government play the most crucial role in ensuring that the trade dealing with liquor or any intoxicating substance is registered. It is also their obligation to make sure that constitutional values (Article 47) are implemented and respected by undertaking efforts for the prohibition of such trade.
These authorities must also maintain fairness in determining the accountability of mishaps.
The most important role has to be played by society. This is because laws cannot be enforced until and unless the people agree to follow them and respect them. They should inculcate moral restraint to deny consumption of liquor.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The fundamental right envisaging freedom to practice a trade or an occupation is based on the fact that ‘work’ provides a sense of self-esteem to individuals and provides them with income which helps them to achieve better standards of living.
However, the freedom to trade liquor raises not only health concerns but also ethical and moral concerns. There have been studies that prove that frequent drinking increases the risk of violence in a household. Therefore, certain reasonable restrictions are justiciable on this trade.
The illegal liquor trade needs to be dismantled to bring relief and justice to victims of this tragedy. There is therefore a need to raid all illegal liquor shops as this can discourage such trades.
If the liquor trade is completely banned, then there will also be a need to find sources of revenue for the State which are as profitable as the trade. For this, the government has to take measures to increase its productivity and enhance the human capital.
If we summarize the aforementioned facts, it will not be wrong to say that prohibiting the freedom to carry on liquor trade will not be against democracy as it is for the greater good. The curb is also under the powers of Article 47 of the Indian Constitution.