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Naik argues for Imran Khan in Maharashtra ‘irrational’ drinking age PIL

Imran: Old enough to drink but not happy
Imran: Old enough to drink but not happy
Naik Naik & Co has represented Bollywood actor Imran Khan and a student in their Bombay High Court writ petition challenging Maharashtra’s increase of the minimum drinking age to 25 years.

Naik managing partner Ameet Naik filed the petition on behalf of Khan and management studies student Vedant Malik, and said that the restriction was a “palpably arbitrary, unreasonable and irrational denial by the state, to persons who have attained full majority under Indian law, but are only not 25 years old, of the equal protection of their settled fundamental and/or legal right(s) of equality, privacy and personal liberty”.

The arguments in the petition, according to an email from the firm:

The specific denial here questioned, is the minimum age requirement (i.e. 25 years) set by Respondent No. 1, for the issuance of permits for the possession, use and consumption of liquor within the State of Maharashtra (outside Wardha District).

The petition highlights the Notifications issued by the State of Maharashtra from time to time prescribing minimum age limit for drinking hard liquor. The minimum legal age prescribed for drinking hard liquor in 1972 was 21 years, in 1979 was increased to 30 years, 1982 reduced to 25 years, January 2001 and July 2001 reduced to 21 years and September, 2005 increased to 25 years.

The Petitioners were under the impression that it was the Notification issued in July 2005 was in force until date. The Petitioners have contended that right since 2005, they had witnessed many persons close to their own age, having no great difficulty in gaining access to liquor (mild or otherwise), for personal, recreational consumption. The Petitioners themselves, being social drinkers, had noticed that even this age requirement was rarely enforced. It thus came as a surprise to them to know that the Government of Maharashtra is now aiming to firmly enforce a minimum age requirement of 25 years. In order to remove this confusion, the Petitioners instructed their Advocates Ameet Naik of Naik Naik & Company to file an Application under the Right to Information Act, 2005, with the appropriate authorities, to ascertain the rules/regulations presently in force, prescribing the minimum age requirement for the consumption of liquor.

In response to this Application, Government of Maharashtra, under cover of its letter dated August 16, 2011, has furnished the Petitioners with two Notifications. The first was the afore-mentioned Notification dated 1st July, 2005 and another Notification, dated 26th September, 2005. That Notification re-amended sub-rule (1) of Rule 70-D of the said Rules, once again increasing the age limit for grant of Liquor Permit to any person from “21 years” to “25 years” in the State of Maharashtra.

The Petitioners state and submit that the Impugned Notification seeks to impose a manifestly unreasonable, arbitrary and unjustified restriction on the class of persons between the ages of 21 to 25 years, who are not legally regarded as “minor” and may vote, marry, contract, consume tobacco and even own firearms, but are not permitted to consume liquor. The impugned Notification therefore seeks to impose a classification which is wholly and palpably unreasonable and arbitrary and occasions real and substantial discrimination between persons otherwise similarly situated. The Petitioners have further submitted that the impugned Notification is an abuse or improper exercise of discretion by the State of Maharashtra, as it bears no proportionality to the object which may be sought to be achieved by it. The petition highlights the irony in existing law that a youth has to cross the border and go into Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh, where he would be deemed to have acquired the requisite maturity to drink, a maturity he is supposed to lose the moment he drives back.

The Petitioners have therefore filed the present writ petition seeking a Writ of Mandamus or direction, striking down and setting aside the Impugned Notification issued by State of Maharashtra. Pending the hearing of the petition, the Petitioners seek an order and prohibitory Injunction staying the effect and purport of the Impugned Notification.

Picture: Bollywoodhungama

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