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Written By – Vaishnavi K

Prohibition to sell alcohol refers to the practice of forbidding the sale of alcohol by law more specifically, the term prohibition refers to banning of the manufacture, storage (whether in barrels or in bottles), transportation, sale, possession, and consumption of all alcoholic beverages. The word is also used to refer to a period of time during which such bans are enforced and punishable if practiced.

Throughout India’s history, there have been several movements both for and against the sale of alcohol in the country. The father of our nation was one among the many who supported National Prohibition of alcohol. This prohibition has been implemented by some state governments with the aim of lowering drinking rates among men, improve health of the people, as well as to try and decrease socio economic harms of alcohol consumption such as incidents of violence against women, excessive spending on liquor, robbery, and accident cases. 

The directive principles of state policy (DPSP) in the constitution of India under article 47 give power to state governments to make legislations relating to the ban of sale of alcohol. As The Directive Principles are not-justifiable rights of the people and alcohol is a subject under the state list, the decision of prohibition is up to the states.


Currently in India, this prohibition is in force in 4 states also known as ‘dry’ states namely – Gujarat, Bihar, Mizoram, Nagaland as well as in the union territory of Lakshadweep while some districts of Manipur and Maharashtra have prohibited the sale of alcohol and Kerala introduced a phased ban of alcohol in 2014 that was later reversed.

 In India, Gujarat was the first state to ban alcohol back in 1960 through the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949.  Subsequently, Nagaland too banned alcohol in 1989 through the Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act (NLTP) that banned the sale and consumption of alcohol in the state.

 In 2015, Bihar became a dry state after the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar prohibited the sale of alcohol state wide. Gujarat (through the Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Act, 2009 legislation ) and Bihar imposes a death penalty for the manufacture and sale of homemade liquor that results in fatalities. 

 In 2019, the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition) Bill was unanimously passed in the state assembly and received the governor assent thereby replacing the four year old Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and control) Act, 2014. 

Lastly, Lakshadweep is the only Union Territory in India to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol. Except the island of Bangaram, which is an inhabited island but has a bar, alcohol is banned in the rest of Lakshadweep. 

States such as Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Manipur and Haryana too had imposed a prohibition on alcohol that was subsequently repealed.  All other Indian states and union territories permit the manufacture, storage, sale and consumption of liquor with restrictions to age of drinking which vary from state to state.

There are some specific days that are observed as dry dates when the sale of alcohol is prohibited. Dry Days are fixed by the respective state government. Most Indian states observe dry days on major religious festivals/occasions depending on the popularity of the festival in that region. National holidays such as Republic Day (26 January), Independence Day (15 August) and Gandhi Jayanti (2 October) are usually dry days throughout India. The practice of dry days doesn’t have to be followed by some establishments such as 5 star hotels although liquor stores and small bars are strictly supposed to follow this. Dry days are also observed on and around voting days with national dry days occurring during Election Commission of India-ordained voting and result days.


The outcome through the prohibition of sale of alcohol in India hasn’t been as expected due to people finding several loopholes to procure and produce alcohol. Furthermore the ban has been used more as an electoral tactic than for the benefit and welfare of people. Total prohibition is an unlikely solution as although it might seriously bring down drinking rates it tends to encourage smuggling, liquor mafia and spurious liquor.

Hence, policy makers should focus on framing laws which encourage responsible behavior and compliance. There is a need for a national plan for gradual reduction and control of alcohol use through reducing the dependence of state governments on liquor revenues as well as improving the existing rules and laws regulating the permits to establish shop, the sale and retail of liquor, the location of shops, opening timings and surrogate advertising that must be enforced.


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