Bombay High Court notices to Maharashtra government, BMC on underage drinking

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has issued notices to the Maharashtra government and the BMC over a petition seeking regulatory action to curb instances of underage drinking in the state. A bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice M S Karnik issued the notices on December 20 and sought details of the state and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) licensing policy for restaurants, bars and cafes that have the permit to serve alcohol.

It also directed the petitioner, Doctors for You, a private association of doctors, health care professionals and medical students, among others, to submit some practical suggestions to help the state authorities implement the law prohibiting minors from consuming or being served alcohol. The public interest litigation (PIL) claims despite the state’s excise rules, and the Juvenile Justice Act prohibiting restaurants and bars among others, from serving alcohol to those aged below 25 years– the legal drinking age for hard liquor in Maharashtra– many such places do not enforce strict checks on underage drinking.

The petition was filed through advocate Aditya Bhatt. The petitioner had submitted on the last hearing that restaurant and bar owners must be directed to install notice boards prohibiting its waiters and bar staff from serving alcohol to those below the legal drinking age. It had also urged the court to direct the authorities to issue stricter prohibitory and cautionary directions against underage drinking, similar to the graphic pictorial warning issued against tobacco consumption.

The bench, however, observed that all restaurant and bar owners were already aware of the state and central laws against underage drinking, and merely putting up new notices wasn’t going to be adequate to curb the problem. It, therefore, directed the petitioner to submit some well thought out, and practical solutions that the state authorities can then look into. “The counsel appearing for the petitioner submits that there has been an alarming increase in the consumption of alcohol by minors. This poses a serious health hazard and such matter of concern needs to be dealt with on priority,” the bench said while issuing the notices. The court directed that the suggestions be submitted by the next date. The bench is likely to hear the matter in detail on January 17.

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