A Delhi government committee has suggested making 21 the permitted drinking age and reducing the number of dry days to three in a year. Officials said the proposals are aimed at earning more revenue from the sale of liquor and stopping malpractices like smuggling and tax evasion.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had formed the committee under the chairmanship of the excise commissioner in September. Liquor is among the largest sources of revenue in Delhi, with the local administration earning around Rs 5,400 crore from its sale in 2019-20.
In September 2019, the Delhi High Court had ruled that the Delhi Excise Act bars the sale of alcohol to people aged below 25. It does not set 25 years as the minimum age for drinking, the court had said, dismissing a petition that sought lowering of the age cap. Section 23 of the Delhi Excise Act states: “No person or licensed vendor or his employee or agent shall sell or deliver any liquor to any person apparently under the age of 25 years, whether for consumption by self or others.”
The report drafted by the committee states, “The permitted drinking age may be fixed at 21 years in parity with neighbouring states like Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.”
The report, viewed by The Indian Express, has not yet been made public to invite suggestions from stakeholders. The recommendations will be made a part of the excise policy only if the Delhi government’s council of ministers approve them.
Other suggestions made by the committee include reducing the number of dry days to three, in line with neighbouring Haryana, Punjab and UP.
It has suggested setting up of three retail liquor vends each in all 272 municipal wards of the capital to ensure “equitable access of liquor supply to all residents of NCT of Delhi so that there are no unserved and underserved areas by ward-wise allocation of vends”.
In the area coming under the New Delhi Municipal Council, there should be 24 vends, the panel has suggested, apart from one government corporation vend each in the 70 assembly constituencies and six retail vends at the IGI Airport.
Currently, there are 864 liquor vends in Delhi though the distribution is not uniform. “The retail licenses other than government corporations be allotted through lottery system once every 2 years,” states the committee report.
The panel has also recommended bringing a new policy for issuing retail licenses to departmental stores for selling beer, wine and other “soft liquor categories”, and promoting ease of business for hotels, clubs and restaurants through reforms in the hospitality sector policies.
To promote consumer choice and prevent “brand pushing”, the panel wants the government to revise the minimum sale criteria for brand registration of Indian Made Foreign Liquor to ensure the presence of reputed brands having reasonable presence nationally in the entry segment.
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