After drawing flak from various quarters, the Karnataka Excise Department on Wednesday decided to withdraw a proposal to lower the minimum drinking age from 21 to 18.
On January 9, the Finance Department, under which excise functions, published draft rules and invited objections from the public within 30 days.
People across the state opposed the government’s move.
The government said it wanted to fix an anomaly in the law: The Karnataka Excise Act prohibits the sale of liquor to persons under 18 years. However, in Rule 10 of (1)(e) of the Karnataka Excise (General Conditions of Licences) Rules, the sale of liquor to persons below 21 years is prohibited.
Lowering the age was recommended by a high-level committee set up under retired bureaucrat V Yashwanth to identify and eliminate “redundant aspects” in the excise law and rules.
“In consideration to the objections raised with by public, associations and media with respect to the said draft rules lowering the age limit from 21 years to 18 years…has been withdrawn with immediate effect,” the Excise department said in a statement.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has fixed Rs 29,000 crore as the excise revenue target for the 2022-23 fiscal. The government expects to touch Rs 30,000 crore before the fiscal ending March.
During Christmas and New Year, excise revenue dipped by 10.63 per cent, even as liquor sales have seen an increase of 14.86 per cent compared to the corresponding period last year.
While the state reported sales of Indian Made Liquor (IML) and beer worth Rs 1,262 crore since December 23, 2022, a total of Rs 1,099 crore had been sold in the same period last year. However, the excise revenue realised during this period is about Rs 657 crore as against Rs 736 crore collected last year. In 2021, the excise revenue reported an increase of 19.74 per cent over 2020.
According to data provided by the excise department on New Year’s Eve, a total of 1.5 million cases of beer was sold against 1.1 million cases last year, reporting an increase of 33.81 per cent. In the case of IML, 2.6 million cartons were sold against a total of 1.9 million cartons last year, reporting a 6.17 per cent increase.