The problem of underage drinking, which have bearing on policing are:
- Traffic accident and fatalities.
- Alcohol related injuries.
- Property damages.
- Assaults, rape and other violent crimes.
- Disorderly conduct in public places.
- Rave Parties.
- Noise complaints in residential areas.
- Suicides, deaths.
Since the reasons of underage drinking can be
- Seeing drinking as a ‘Rite of Passage’ or fundamental part of adolescence and college life.
- Acceptable of underage drinking in society e.g. Peer groups, parents.
- To be as part of group.
- To reduce stress, worries, tension & to male them more socially confident.
- The advertisements of alcoholic drinks that are youth oriented with similar packaging.
- Availability in the form of vendors, pubs & restaurants serving alcohol.
The issue meds to be addressed from the point of view of JJ (care and protection) Act as the juvenile may come in contact with police because of underage drinking as a victim on as an offender in the above categories of delinquent behaviour. Further, there are very few legal sanctions for underage drinking except for booking persons supplying alcohol to underage. At present, the penal provisions relating to underage drinking are in:
- Under the JJ Act, S-25 relates to penalty for giving intoxicating, liquor or narcotic drug or psychotropic substance to juvenile on child. However, with respect to intoxicating liquor, it is subject to it being given in public place.
- Under the Punjab Excise Act, S-29 relates to penalty for serving drinks/selling to underage (i.e. more than 25 yrs. of age). The fine is Rs. 500/- u/s 62 .
The extent of underage drinking is not known in the absence of any study in this regard. We will need to collect data from traffic police on No. of challans of underage drivers, No. of challans by local police of the restaurants, bar & pubs for underage drinking and the licensing branch.
Since the studies done in UK & US have liked the underage drinking to failures of the servers or vendors to check IDs before selling alcohol, availability of alcohol, non availability of good hang out places which do not serve alcohols, not enforcing the sanctions strictly enough on violation of licence terms, if we need to address the issue, a policy on this issue need to evolve.