Delhi lowers legal age of drinking to 21 years

Delhi has lowered the minimum age for consumption of liquor to 21 years, from 25, in sync with the age set by neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.

The National Capital will also introduce the concept of age gating — debarring any person below 21 years of age and without adult supervision from a restaurant serving liquor.

The measures are part of an excise policy the Delhi cabinet approved on Monday. Under it, the government will not give permission to open any more liquor outlets. It will also withdraw from the liquor retail business, and allow private players to run vends, a decision that deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said would increase Delhi’s revenue by ₹1,500-2,000 crore a year.

Addressing a press conference, Sisodia said, “To stop harassment of people and establishments, consumption age will be the same as a majority of Indian states — at 21, like Noida in Uttar Pradesh. New rules will be introduced to make sure that people who are under the age of 21 cannot get access to the establishment that serves liquor, without supervision.” He said Delhi would be the first city in India to introduce the concept of age gating. So far, people under the legal age were not served alcohol, but were allowed to enter such restaurants without adult supervision.

The minister said age gating would help ensure there was no underage drinking in Delhi. The standard operating procedure for this will be created in consultation with the industry, he said.

Policy Reforms

Excise policy reforms that the Aam Aadmi Party government has introduced had been on the anvil for over a decade.

The decision to exit the liquor retailing business, as per the government, will ensure better revenue for Delhi. So far, 60% of the retail outlets were run by the government and 40% were private.

Sisodia said, “We have decided that in Delhi, no new liquor shop will be allowed to open. We have also noted that 40% of private liquor shops give more revenue than state government-owned shops because (of) revenue leakages in government shops.”

Sisodia said, “We have also decided that any liquor shop should be of minimum 500 square feet. These shops will not have any counter facing towards the road. Liquor sale and pick-up will only take place inside the shop and nothing will take place outside the shop. The liquor shop owners will have to ensure law and order outside the shop.” These measures will help ensure the dignity of the consumer, the minister said. “Current retail experience is like a jail. When you go to a shop, there is a grill and people rush and throw money to buy liquor. There is no dignity.”

( Originally published on Mar 22, 2021 )

In Video: Delhi Govt to reduce legal age of drinking to 21 from 25: DY CM Manish Sisodia