The Delhi government defended its decision before the Delhi High Court Tuesday on keeping 25 years as the legal age for buying and drinking alcohol in the city, and said it is a settled position that alcohol is “obnoxious and injurious to health”.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao was also informed by the government’s Excise department that “in any event, age cannot be an irrelevant factor for regulating personal consumption of liquor. Therefore, fixing minimum age for the same cannot be arbitrary”.
Delhi government standing counsel Ramesh Singh sought dismissal of a PIL by advocate Kush Kalra, seeking quashing of Section 23 of the Delhi Excise Act which prescribes 25 years as the legal drinking age in the city. Singh, who filed the affidavit on the government’s behalf, urged the court that a heavy cost should be imposed on the petitioner for filing a “frivolous, unmerited and unsubstantial petition”.
“It is settled position of law that alcohol is obnoxious, injurious to health, morals, safety and general welfare of public. In view of the matter, the present petition cannot be a petition in public interest as it clearly seeks to encourage drinking… Accordingly, the same ought to be dismissed,” the government’s affidavit said.
It further said that “what should be the minimum age is a matter of policy decision which remains within the exclusive jurisdiction of the state government”.
It added that the framing of law, which is within the competence of a legislature, cannot be stated as amounting to discrimination merely because it fails to bring parity with laws framed in another jurisdiction.
Kalra’s counsel Charu Wali Khanna has submitted that the current age limit discriminates against Delhi residents because the minimum legal age for alcohol consumption in other states is lower — in Uttar Pradesh and Goa it is 21, and Rajasthan, 18.
It added that many Delhi residents aged below 25 travel to other states to drink. The matter will be heard on January 22, 2019.