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‘The state cannot dictate what an individual will eat or drink’ : Appeal to HC

Bar and Bench reports that the Gujarat High Court heard a batch of petitions challenging the state government’s Prohibition Act, which prohibits the sale and consumption of liquor. In one petition, it was argued that the law was irrational and unfair. ‘He [a citizen] cannot be forced to eat or drink anything the state dictates. As long as they are not causing any inconvenience to society, citizens have the right to choose how to live’, Patel said.

‘If privacy interests are found to be at issue, there is no compelling reason for the state to maintain an existing law that penalizes private transportation, possession, and consumption of alcohol that causes no harm to others’, the petitioner said. Article 21 of the Constitution protects the right to life, liberty, and privacy, but these provisions destroy those rights.

On Wednesday, the hearing in this case continued. The petitioners argued on Tuesday that if the government imposed restrictions on alcohol consumption, then it might as well control what food people consume at home. Advocate General Kamal Trivedi, representing the state government, disagreed with this argument. ‘The right to consume non-vegetarian foods within the four walls of one’s own home cannot be compared with the right to drink intoxicating substances. Tomorrow, someone may argue that I consume psychotropic substances within my home, so the state cannot control me,’ he said, according to Bar and Bench.

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According to Trivedi, citizens’ right to privacy is subject to certain limitations based on their social environment. ‘This concept of the right to privacy is not a bull in a China shop,’ he said. According to the advocate general, the Supreme Court upheld the Gujarat Prohibition Act in 1951. He said the high court should not examine the validity of any law [on] new grounds if it has been upheld by the apex court in the past.

Prakash Jani, representing a women’s NGO, also urged the court not to accept the arguments of the petitioners. ‘Essentially, the entire prohibition law revolves around sections 12 and 13 [alcohol prohibition], which has been continuously enforced for 70 years, and people of Gujarat are extremely happy with the law, barring certain petitioners,’ he explained. As a result of hearing the arguments in the case, the division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Biren Vaishnav reserved its decision on the petitions.


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