Confusion over the law and any form of enforcement sees minors and school children frequenting pubs and bars in the region of Bengalaru, in southern India.
Despite the law requiring licensed premises to request proof of age, complacency and confusion over the correct legal age means youngsters are effectively free to come and go without question.
Last year Excise Commissioner Umashankar SR said the department would raid and suspend the licences of bars and pubs found to be serving minors, but has since admitted this hasn’t happened.
“We have not yet conducted any raids or filed any cases against bar and pub owners … we will be doing that soon,” he told India’s Economic Times (ET).
But exacerbating the problem, the Excise Commissioner says the legal drinking age is 18 years old – and the Deputy Commissioner of Excise (Legal) says it is 21 years.
Reportedly, the department raised the drinking age just last year from 18 to 21, under the Karnataka Excise Licences (General Conditions) Rules, 1967.
It thoughtfully issued a circular to pubs and bars.
However Supreme Court advocate KV Dhananjay says the General Conditions rules are subsidiary to the Karnataka Excise Department Act of 1965, which stipulates 18 years, and that the “enhancement” by the Excise Department is illegal.
“Such an enhancement can only be made by the legislature and it was never called upon to do so.”
Meanwhile, ET says minors are common in bars, and that workers report no efforts to stop the practise.
“We have not been instructed to check their ID cards or ages.”
The laws state that sale of liquor to minors is a criminal offence punishable with a seven-year jail term.