The Excise (Spirits) Act, 1863

The Excise (Sprits) Act, 1863 (Act No. 16 of 1863) dated 10th March, 1863 was enacted with the view to provide for special provisions as to levy of the Excise-duty payable on Spirits which are used absolutely in Arts and Manufactures or even in Chemistry. The most essential element and organ of State is population and if the population of any State is fully involved in drinking alcohol then the meaning of such State will be null. The influence of intoxication drives a person to an end. Under such situation the law making authority of country should provide for effective legislation besides all other prohibitive factors. This was realized by Indian parliament and the most important law as to prohibition of using spirits is enacted. This Act not only prohibits using of spirit unfit for human consumption but also limited the open drinking by providing license system to the citizens. In short, one can say, by going into Excise (Spirit) Act, 1863 a citizen can drink only if he has a permit to drink.

The Act under its first Section required the payment of duty for removal of spirits from licensed distillery in any State, which extends to five percent of value of such spirits. However, such spirits can not be removed until rendered bad for human consumption. Similarly, Section 2 of the Act provides for making of Rules to ascertain such spirits which are to be removed as have been bad or unfit for human consumption. Such Rules can also provide for fixing of value of spirits on which duty is to be levied.

Section 3 of the Act penalizes the action of willful breach of such Rules. Further, this section explains penalty extending up to 500 rupees and also for conviction. Section 4 of the Act, describes penalty for attempt, wherein if any spirits removed from distillery as per provisions of this Act and any persons attempting to render such spirits fit for human consumption then he should be liable to maximum penalty up to one thousand rupees. Moreover, any person being possessor of such spirits should also be liable for conviction and for penalty up to five hundred rupees.

Similarly, Section 5 of the Act clears about levy of penalty how made. Under this Section it is specifies that if any penalty is imposed can be levied by distress and sale of goods, chattels of concerned Offender and even it can be levied by warrant. Section 6 of the Act clarifies the consequences of non-payment of penalty by the Offender under the Act. Under such circumstances, the Offender can be detained under the safe custody, unless and until the return can be conveniently made to such warrant of distress. Section 7 of the Act describes consequences of failure to recover penalty by distress which extends to issuance of warrant committing the offender to the civil jail for his imprisonment as per choice of officer concerned, for any term, maximum up to certain period depending upon amount of penalty.

Further, Section 8 of the Act was dealing with applicability of provisions relating to adulteration of the different Act. However, this provision of the Act is repealed by the Amending Act of 1891 (Act No.12 of 1891. The last section i.e. Section 9 of the Act is dealing with provisions relating to confiscation, where case of conviction under Section 3 or Section 4 of the Act is there and any cask or vessel engaged or any cart, boat or animal being involved in carrying of such spirit should be confiscated.

The law commission of India in its Second Interim Report, 2014 (Report no. 249) while doing study upon “Legal Enactments : Simplifications and Streamlining (LESS)” has recommended repeal of about 88 laws and ordinances promulgated during World War II period as those enactments are inconsistent with modern one. This recommendation includes Excise (Spirits) Act, 1863, which as per report now falls under the category of industrial alcohol under the Central Excise Tariff Act, 1985.

by Faim Khalilkhan Pathan