Maharashtra’s liquor ordinance leaves more scope of harassment!

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Published: January 14, 2020 1:24 AM

The ordinance, passed in September last year, sets a limit to possession of alcohol—given that it allows an individual to possess up to 12,000 litres, it shouldn’t seem too restrictive.

But, it has also imposed a rule whereby those hosting house parties of more than 10 people need to apply for alcohol licences. (Representative image)But, it has also imposed a rule whereby those hosting house parties of more than 10 people need to apply for alcohol licences. (Representative image)

Although India has scrapped many colonial laws since Independence, some stick out sorely even today. For instance, while prohibition has never really worked, states keep thinking of some form of it as a good idea. Andhra Pradesh is the latest to do so. There are also those who have some form of a partial ban, which is not only just as ineffective as a total ban but also signals contradictory goals. Take Maharashtra, for instance. On the one hand, it moved to allow bars to stay open till 5 am; and liquor shops can be in business till as late as 1 am on Christmas and New Years. On the other, it has moved to strengthen the prohibition law that dates back to 1949.

The ordinance, passed in September last year, sets a limit to possession of alcohol—given that it allows an individual to possess up to 12,000 litres, it shouldn’t seem too restrictive. But, it has also imposed a rule whereby those hosting house parties of more than 10 people need to apply for alcohol licences.

Though such regulations have existed for societies, restaurants and large gatherings, and other states also have restrictions, they are rarely observed. More importantly, if such rules are allowed, they shall only become a tool in the hands of local authorities to extort money. It is true that internet and platform economies have led to home dine-ins and apps like VizEat, and these put restaurants at a disadvantage. Restaurants have to apply for licences to serve liquor, whereas these establishments can do so without any restrictions. However, the state needs to find other ways to deal with the problem. One possible example can be asking such platforms to impose rules on behalf of the state—Uber and Ola, for instance, must ensure that no driver without a licence can register. The state needs to realise that old methods of regulation won’t help with new, digital-age businesses.

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