Civil Procedure Code (CPC)

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Key Takeaways

• A petition was filed in the Gujarat High Court which challenged the prohibition on the manufacture, sale, and consumption of liquor in the state of Gujarat.

• The petition was filed on the grounds of 'manifest arbitrariness and violation of 'right to privacy.

• The right to privacy is an essential tool to protect ourselves from unwarranted interference from the government.

• The Gujarat High Court challenged the petitions against liquor prohibition law and raised preliminary objections on the maintainability of such petitions.

Introduction

The Gujarat High Court on 21st June 2021 heard petitions challenging the prohibition on manufacture, sale, and consumption of liquor in the state of Gujarat as per the Gujarat Prohibition Act, 1949. The petition challenged the law on the grounds of 'manifest arbitrariness’ and violation of 'right to privacy. Significantly, the Petitioners have challenged the Act on two new grounds. The first ground is that it ‘manifests arbitrariness’ laid down in the cases of Shayara Bano, Navtej Singh Johar, and Joseph Shine. The second ground is based on 'right to privacy, 'right to be left alone' and 'right to consume liquor within four walls of one's home', which they argue falls under the ambit of right to privacy that was recognized by the Supreme Court in KS Puttaswamy v. Union of India.

What is privacy

There are various interpretations about the definition of privacy, In layman’s term “It is the right to be left alone; As per the Black’s Law Dictionary “It is the right of an individual to be free from any unnecessary publicity”.

Generally speaking, there are two forms of privacy one refers to personal privacy and the other refers to information privacy, The former refers to the privacy of your personal space as an individual and the latter means the privacy of your information the person such as your bank details, address and other personal details. With the lightning-fast innovation in technology information, privacy is becoming more complicated as more and more personal data is being collected and exchanged. Privacy enables us to control who has access to this information and how this information is used. Therefore, privacy is an essential tool to protect ourselves from unwarranted interference from the government and companies in our lives

What is meant by Manifest Arbitrariness

Manifest Arbitrariness is a doctrine that is perhaps the most important legal development of the decade for India. It is a standard that includes anything done by the legislature capriciously, irrationally, and/or without adequately determining the principle. It is being increasingly used to strike down legislation that conflicts with the standard under Article 14 of the Constitution of India. However, there is no clarity on its application.

Relevant Judgments

• In Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India(1976): This was a momentous case in Indian law as it helped in giving article 21 of the Indian constitution a broader scope. It allowed for a much wider interpretation of article 21, by giving extended meaning to the word” ‘life’ and ‘liberty’, In this case, maneka Gandhi was asked to give up her passport by the authorities under section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act 1967. However, when she asked for the reason for such confiscation, the Ministry of External Affairs refused to provide any reason under the interest of the general public, after which she lodged a writ petition under Article 32 of the constitution In the Supreme Court against the order challenging it as it violated her fundamental right of personal liberty under Article 21 of the Indian constitution. It was held by the court that the mere existence of such a law was not sufficient enough to violate the fundamental right of an individual, any such law should also be just and fair.

Justice KS Puttaswamy vs. Union of India (2017): In 2012, a retired high court judge, Justice KS Puttaswamy filed a writ petition challenging the constitutionality of the aadhaar scheme introduced by the UPA government. On August 11, 2015, a three judges bench ordered that a bench of appropriate strength must examine the validity of the decisions in the case MP Sharma vs. Satish Chandra and Kharak Singh vs. the State of U.P, particularly it ordered that the court must decide whether we have a fundamental right to privacy. This matter was first placed before a 5-judge bench after which it was subsequently referred to a 9-judge bench on 18th July 2017. After much deliberations, On 24th August 2017, a landmark decision was given unanimously by the bench, which overruled the judgment of the earlier case, recognizing the fundamental right to privacy of every individual under Article 21 part III of the Constitution of India.

• The State of Bombay And Another vs F.N. Balsara on 25 May 1951- In this case, it has been considered as to whether under the Prohibition Act, the keeping of alcohol mixed medicine, and toilet goods their selling and buying and using can be prohibited or not. The case highlights the provisions of constitutional law. The case applied the doctrine of pith and substance which helps to concern the true character and nature of the legislation. The petitioner pleaded the Bombay Prohibition Act was violative of Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution. Thus, it must be declared void. The Supreme Court, therefore, declared some provisions of the Bombay Prohibition Act as illegal. These provisions were concerning keeping alcohol-mixed medicines, and toilet goods, and also selling them. The other provisions were declared legal and valid.

Relevant Legal Provisions

• The Gujarat Prohibition (Amendment) Bill, 2017- It implemented new stringent prohibition law with the provision of up to ten years jail for manufacturing, purchase, sale, and transportation of liquor in the dry state. This act provided provisions for the state government to constitute a monitoring cell to enforce the liquor ban in the state. It also established a helpline for citizens to directly inform the state government about any liquor-related illegal activity. The Act also implemented stringent action against bootleggers, tipplers as well as officials who help culprits to escape during raids on liquor dens.

• Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Act, 2009- The Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Act, 2009 is an Act of Gujarat Legislative Assembly that prohibits the manufacture, selling, buying, or distributing of Laththa, which is spurious liquor, which contains methanol or any other poisonous substances which may cause the death of a person. The Act also makes it a punishable offense for the person involved in making or working in any distillery or brewery making laththa. The punishment involves either a death sentence or life imprisonment for those found guilty of manufacturing and selling spurious liquor in cases where those who consumed the spurious liquor have died.

• Right to Privacy- The Indian Constitution does not have any express privacy laws, but the courts have given extended meaning to the pre-existing fundamental rights to include the right to privacy as under Article 19(1)(a) (right to freedom of speech and expression) and Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty). However, it is also stated that these rights are not absolute and are subject to reasonable restrictions.

Conclusion

Most of the sections being challenged have been upheld by the Supreme Court and the provisions that were found to be ultra vires were removed from the Act. Further, The High Court has stated that a new ground of challenge even based on the approach made in later decisions of the Supreme Court may not be available before this Court to the petitioner in this case.

The right to privacy has not only been an issue in India but also in western countries, American Supreme Court Judges have talked about the right of privacy as an aspect of the pursuit of happiness. The Privacy Act 1974 protects the records of the citizens from arbitrary use from any agency.


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