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Varied Legal Drinking Age Across States in India – from 18 till 25: An Overview

Varied Legal Drinking Age in India Across States and Recent Debate

Underage drinking and driving have become a significant topic of debate across India, especially on social media, following the tragic incident in Pune on May 19. In this incident, a Porsche driven by a drunk minor fatally struck two individuals.

Public outrage over this event prompted local authorities to take swift action, shutting down and arresting the staff of the pub that served the minor alcohol and detaining the builder whose son was involved in the accident. This has led to a broader conversation about the responsibilities of parents and the legal framework surrounding underage drinking and driving.

In India, individuals can obtain a driving license at the age of 18 after passing the requisite tests at the Regional Transport Office (RTO). However, the legal drinking age varies widely across states and Union Territories, reflecting the country’s diverse cultural and legislative approaches to alcohol consumption.

Legal Drinking Age by State

18 Years: In states such as Goa, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Sikkim, and Puducherry, individuals are legally allowed to consume mild beer upon reaching the age of 18. These states have chosen a lower threshold for alcohol consumption, which aligns with the minimum legal age for obtaining a driving license.

21 Years: A number of states set the legal drinking age at 21. These states include Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh. In these regions, individuals must wait until they are 21 to consume hard liquor. This age limit aims to balance young adults’ growing independence with the need to promote responsible drinking behavior.

23 Years: Kerala stands out with its unique legal drinking age of 23, which was raised from 21 a few years ago. This increase was part of the state’s broader efforts to curb alcohol consumption and address related social issues. Kerala’s higher legal drinking age reflects a more cautious approach to alcohol regulation, possibly influenced by the state’s higher rates of alcohol-related health and social problems.

25 Years: In Maharashtra, Chandigarh, Meghalaya, and Punjab, the legal drinking age is set at 25. These states have implemented rules to discourage the sale of alcohol to individuals under 25, although enforcement can vary significantly. While the legal age for consuming mild beer in Maharashtra is 18, the age limit for consuming liquors with higher alcohol content is 25. This distinction is intended to mitigate the risks associated with higher-strength alcoholic beverages.

Total Alcohol Ban: Some states, including Gujarat and Bihar, have opted for a complete ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol. These bans reflect local cultural and political priorities, aiming to eliminate alcohol-related problems through stringent prohibition.

Regulations and Penalties for Drinking and Driving

Legal Framework: In India, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly prohibited under Section 185 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988. The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is set at 0.03% per 100 ml of blood across most states. For commercial vehicle drivers, the permissible BAC limit is even stricter, reflecting the higher responsibility and potential risk associated with operating larger vehicles.

Penalties: First-time offenders caught driving under the influence can face a fine of up to ₹10,000, imprisonment for up to six months, and suspension of their driving license. These penalties apply universally to all types of vehicles, including two-wheelers, three-wheelers, and commercial vehicles. The strict enforcement of these penalties aims to deter drunk driving and reduce the incidence of alcohol-related accidents on the roads.

Accountability for Minors: If a minor is found to have committed an offense related to alcohol consumption or drunk driving, the guardian or owner of the vehicle is held legally responsible. This provision ensures that adults who are responsible for minors are held accountable for their actions, promoting greater oversight and responsibility. The recent incident in Pune has highlighted the importance of this accountability, as the public and authorities scrutinize the roles of both the minors involved and their guardians.

In conclusion, the legal drinking age across India varies significantly by state, reflecting diverse approaches to alcohol regulation. Recent debates, spurred by tragic incidents, underscore the importance of enforcing these laws and holding guardians accountable to prevent underage drinking and its associated dangers.

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