The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.

Debate Summary

Article 38, Draft Constitution, 1948

The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties.

 

Draft Article 38 (Article 47) was debated on 23rd and 24th November, 1948. It imposed an obligation on the state to improve public health, nutrition, and the standard of living. 

 

A member moved to expand the scope of the Draft Article by inserting the sentence: 'and shall endeavour to bring about the prohibition of the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs which are injurious to health'. Another member agreed with the spirit of the amendment, but proposed that the words 'except for medicinal purposes' be included in the Draft Article.

 

The debates in the Assembly were based on these two amendments.

 

One member in favour of the amendment argued that it made economic sense, as the loss of revenue caused by the 'increase of crime, disease and the loss of efficiency' was three times higher than the loss of revenue earned from the sale of alcohol. Another contended that working class and Dalit families would benefit the most from a ban, as these communities spent a substantial amount of their wages on liquor.

 

However, one member offered several arguments against the adoption of the two amendments. He argued that similar prohibitions in both America and Madras had proven unsuccessful and expensive: many people continued to consume alcohol, while the state incurred extra costs to incarcerate those who broke the ban. Moreover, he contended that prohibition infringed on the personal liberty of citizens. A member from the Adivasi community argued that a ban on alcohol could be used to infringe the religious rights of Adivasis, citing the religious significance attached to the consumption of rice beer.

 

The Chairman of the Drafting Committee responded to these arguments by reminding the Assembly that the article was a part of the non-justiciable Directive Principles of State Policy, and as such were not legally binding. With regard to the objection raised by the member from the Adivasi community, he noted that the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution guaranteed that no law could be enforced in tribal areas without consulting with District and Regional Tribal Boards.

 

The Assembly accepted both amendments. The amended Draft Article was adopted on 24 November 1948.