The word “liquor” covers not only those alcoholic liquids which are generally used for beverage purposes and produce intoxication, but also all liquids containing alcohol. It may be that the latter meaning is not the meaning which is attributed to the word “liquor” in common parlance especially when that word is prefixed by the qualifying word “intoxicating’, but in my opinion having regard to the numerous statutory definitions of that words, such a meaning could not have been intended to be excluded from the scope of the term “intoxicating liquor”.
The High Court has held that the word “liquor” ordinarily means “a strong drink as opposed to soft drink”, but it must in any event be a beverage which is ordinarily drunk. Proceeding upon this view, the High Court has held that although the legislature day while legislating under entry 31 prevent the consumption of non-intoxicating beverages and also prevent the use as drinks of alcoholic liquids which are not normally consumed as drinks, it cannot prevent the legitimate use of alcoholic preparations which are not beverages nor the use of medicinal and toilet preparations containing alcohol. This view of the High Court was very strongly supported on the one hand and equally strongly challenged on the other before us, and I therefore proceed to deal with the question at some length.
14. In the ‘Oxford English Dictionary’, edited by James. Murray, several meanings are given to the word “liquor”, of which the following may be quoted:
1. A liquid; matter in a liquid state; in wider sense a fluid.
2. A liquid or a prepared solution used as a wash or bath, and in many processes in the industrial arts.
3. Liquid for drinking; beverage, drink. Now almost exclusively a drink produced by fermentation or distillation. Malt liquor, liquor brewed from malt; ale, beer, porter etc.
4. The water in which meat has been boiled; broth, sauce; the fat in which bacon, fish or the like has been fried; the liquid contained in oysters.
5. The liquid produced by infusion (in testing the quality of a tea). In liquor, in the state on an infusion.
Thus, according to the Dictionary, the word ‘liquor’ may have a general meaning in the sense of a liquid, or it may have a special meaning, which is the third meaning assigned to it in the extract quoted above, viz., a drink or beverage produced by fermentation or distillation. The latter is undoubtedly the popular and most widely accepted meaning, and the basic idea of beverage seems rather prominently to run through the main provisions of the various Acts of this country as well as of America and England relating to intoxicating liquor, to which our attention was drawn. But, at the same time, on a reference to these very Acts, is difficult to hold that they deal exclusively with beverage and are not applicable to certain articles which are strictly speaking not beverages. A few instances will make the point Clear. In the National Prohibition Act, 1919 of America (also known as the Volstead Act), the words, liquor and intoxicating liquor, are used as having the same meaning and the definition states that these words shall be construed to:
“include alcohol, brandy, whisky, rum, gin, beer, ale, porter and wine, and in addition thereto any spirituous, vinous, malt, or fermented liquor, liquids, and compounds, whether medicated, proprietary, patented or not, and by whatever name called, containing one-half of 1 per centum or more of alcohol by volume which are fit for use for beverage purposes”
Having defined ‘liquor’ and ‘intoxicating liquor’ rather widely, the Volstead Act excepted denatured alcohol, medicinal preparations, toilet and antiseptic preparations, flavouring extracts and sirups, vinegar and preserved sweet cider (s. 4), which suggest that they were inCluded in the definition. In some of these items, we have the qualifying words “unfit for use for beverage purposes”, but the heading of S. 4, Volstead Act, under which these exceptions are enumerated, is “exempted liquors.”
15. The Licensing (Consolidating) Act, 1910, of England was an Act relating to licenses for the sale of intoxicating liquor, etc. The definition of “intoxicating liquor” in this Act was as follows:
“Intoxicating liquor” means (unless inconsistent with the context) spirits, wine, beer, porter, cider, perry and sweets, and any fermented, distilled, or spirituous liquor which cannot, according to any law for the time being in force, be legally sold without an excise licence.”
The word “spirits” has been defined in the Spirits Act, 1880, as meaning:
“spirits of any description, and includs all liquors mixed with spirits, and all mixtures, compounds, or preparations made with spirits.”
It was contended before its that the definition of the word “spirits” in the Spirits Act should not be imported in the Act of 1910, but in our view for the purpose of understanding the definition of intoxicating liquor’, the two Acts should be read together. I do not suggest that the definition of ‘liquor” in the present Act was borrowed from those Acts, but I am only trying to show that the word ‘liquor’ is capable of being used in a wide sense.
16. Coming now to the various definitions given in the Indian Acts, I may refer in the first instance to the Bombay Abkari Act of 1878 as amended by Sub-sequent Acts, where the definition is substantially the same as in the Act with which we are concerned. In the Bengal Excise Act, 1909 “liquor” is said to mean:
“liquid consisting of or containing alcohol, and includs spirits of wine, spirit, wine, tari pachwal. beer, and any Sub-stance which the Provincial Govt. may…. declare to be liquor for the purposes of the Act.”
In several other Provincial Acts, e. g., the Punjab. Excise Act, 1914, the U. P. Excise Act, 1910, “liquor” is used as meaning intoxicating liquor and as including alcohol. The definition of “liquor” in the Madras Abkari Act, 1886 is the same as in the Bombay Act of 1878. Even if we exclude the American and English Acts from our consideration, we find that all the Provincial Acts of this country have consistently included liquids containing alcohol in the definition of ‘liquor’ and ‘intoxicating liquor’. The framers of the Govt. of India Act. 1935 could not have been entirely ignorant of the accepted sense in which the word ‘liquor’ has been used in the various excise Acts of this country, and, accordingly I consider the appropriate conclusion to be that the word “liquor” covers not only those alcoholic liquids which are generally used for beverage purposes and produce intoxication, but also all liquids containing alcohol. It may be that the latter meaning is not the meaning which is attributed to the word “liquor” in common parlance especially when that word is prefixed by the qualifying word ‘intoxicating’, but in my opinion having regard to the numerous statutory definitions of that word, such a meaning could not have been intended to be excluded from the scope of the term “intoxicating liquor” as used in entry 31 of List II.
Again, referring to liquor laws and liquor control, a learned British author (‘The Encyclopaedia Britanica’, Edn. 14, Vol. 14, p. 191,) says as follows:
“The dominant motive everywhere, however, has been a social one, to combat a menace to public order and the increasing evils of alcoholism in the interests of health and social welfare. The evils vary greatly from one country to another according to differences in Climate, diet, economic conditions and even within the same country according to differences in habits, social customs and standards of public morality. A new factor of growing importance since the middle of the 19th century has been the rapid urbanisation, industrialization and mechanization of our modern every day life in the leading nations of the world, and the consequent wider recognition of the advantages of sobriety in safeguarding public order and physical efficiency.” These passages may lend some support to the contention of the learned Attorney-General that the Act comes also within the subject of “public order”, but I prefer to leave out of account this entry, which has a remote bearing, it any, on the object and scope at the present Act.
Source: AIR 1951 SC 318 : (1951) SCR 682 : (1951) CriLJ SC 1361