New Delhi, Feb. 26: The Supreme Court has held that a citizen has no fundamental right to trade in liquor as the power to grant such permission is the sole prerogative of the state.
Interpreting the Constitution, a bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra pointed out that Article 47 was one of the directive principles of state policy.
The state has the power to completely prohibit the manufacture, sale, possession, distribution and consumption of liquor as a beverage “because it is inherently dangerous to the human health”.
As a consequence, “it is the privilege of the state and it is for the state to decide whether it should part with that privilege, which depends upon the liquor policy of the state. The state has, therefore, the exclusive right or privilege in respect of portable liquor”, the court said.
“A citizen has, therefore, no fundamental right to trade or business in liquor as a beverage and activities which are res extra commercium (out of commerce, not private right) cannot be carried on by any citizen. The state can prohibit completely the trade or business in portable liquor and the state can also create a monopoly in itself for the trade or business in such liquor,” said Justice Radhakrishnan, writing the judgment.
“Granting a liquor licence is not like granting licence to drive a cab or parking a vehicle or issuing a municipal licence to set up a grocery or a fruit shop,” the court added.
The apex court passed the ruling while setting aside a directive of Kerala High Court that had asked the state government to grant permission to Kandath Distilleries.
An application filed by the company in 1987 for a licence to establish a compounding, blending and bottling unit was rejected by the authorities.
The state did not grant permission on the ground that an unusually large number of applications has been cropping up. A decision was taken in 1999 not to grant any further permission.
But Kandath Distilleries contended that although its application was rejected, at least two other distillers were granted licences in the same district around the same time.
The high court directed the state in 2006 to grant permission to Kandath Distilleries to set up its unit. The state then moved the apex court.