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[LawStreet Legality Check]: Trends Raging For Alcohol Sale Via Whatsapp Amid Lockdown (Gurgaon Case)

Alcohol Sale Via Whatsapp
Amid the lockdown imposed nationwide by the government till 15th April, 2020, people are rushing to buy and stock up the essentials. And according to the government directions, only essentials needed for the citizens to have their daily livelihood followed are made available in the grocery stores and through online grocery stores. 

These directions tend to create a difficulty for people who are habituated to drinking alcohol, as per the directions of government, shops providing alcohol are requested to remain shut. This has created difficulty in the availability of the alcohol amid the lockdown and has further led to creating the availability of alcohol through black market. In order to obtain the liquor in the current scenario one can start negotiating with the local illicit moonshiner or bootlegger to obtain a drink in order to continue the alcohol habits while at home. If we were to see, when any liquor store hits a ban, illegal activities fill the void around people who would be able to fill their thirst. 

This has been seen happening in states across the country. But the main question one needs to ask oneself is whether the buying of an alcohol bottle through the black market would make oneself land in the eyes of law or not?! In terms of the Constitution of India, Article 47 clearly mentions that “The State shall endeavour to bring about a prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purpose of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.” 

Irrespective of this the consumption continues. 

There are several instances around the country amid the lockdown wherein the sale of liquor via bootlegging is creating chaos within the people. 

These following instances have been fact checked by Law Street Journal. One such incident is of a man from Gurgaon (name in both cases not disclosed to protect the identities) has put forth the statement on how he was cheated off the money, an amount of Rs. 12,000 while he tried to order four bottles of alcohol. So what the person selling the alcohol (Let's call him S) did here is shared genuine prices of the bottles pertaining to the different sizes/types. The customer asked for a supply of four bottles and S agreed to that, upon which he said that 50% of the total amount needs to be paid before. Then S gave the reason that they needed to generate the bill so they wanted the money transfer prior to the delivery. Customer agreed to pay an amount of Rs. 3,000 first and was asked to transfer the money through Paytm and also asked to send the screenshot to the number mentioned. A separate number was given wherein the money had to be transferred. Later on, S gave the excuse of his manager not allowing for the delivery without a proper transaction of 50% of the amount (Rs. 6,000). S was reluctant on obtaining half the amount and kept persisting the customer. Another amount of Rs. 3000 were transferred by the customer to which S gave another story that the bill was stuck and a whole payment needs to be done for generation of bill. Without bill, he cannot step out and the police will catch him otherwise. A further amount of Rs. 6160 was paid with a delivery charge. So the total amount that was paid was Rs. 12,160 and the customer demanded for his delivery since the entire amount was paid. S goes on to tell that the payment was done in three separate parts and the payment was to be done in one shot. Only then he can deliver the four bottles. The customer then demanded 2 bottles as he had paid Rs. 6000 in one shot and asked for the other payment to be sent back. The payments were done two times by scanning and one time via a number. S told that a whole payment needs to be done in one shot and he will send the amount via cash once he receives the payment. Customer asked for two bottles again to which S said, you pay me Rs. 6000 again and I will send you Rs. 12,160 with the bottles. The customer then said to cancel the delivery and send all the amount back to which S said, "You have our address, visit the shop after 15th April and collect it from there." To this the customer has not yet filed an FIR in this situation and is awaiting 15th April. Incase he doesn't any response via the shop, he will proceed to file an FIR. This is a case wherein the customer was exploited of his money instantly. 

Another incident is of the spreading of fake messages that enlists the prices of the alcohol bottles but gives a contact number of a person who has absolutely no relation to the selling of alcohol bottles. This creates the violation of a person's privacy and further adds up to the misuse of information. The incident follows the narration of an individual and several others whose numbers have been added to a message that enlists the sale of alcohol across Gurgaon and Delhi. The message includes the price list, the home delivery timing list and a number wherein the customer needs to call for ordering the bottles. The man who is facing the difficulty lodged a complaint in the police station wherein after dialling 112, he was given a unique reference number and three calling numbers. From the three calling numbers, two of the numbers which were of a cybercrime cell turned out to be switched off and one number was of a hospital. Although the police said, they will look into the matter, they have contended that unless and until a legal harm is done to a person, the police cannot take any further action. 

Let's focus on sections under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 where the person administering an act to cause distress to a person will be held liable, if the distress increases causing harm to the person.  (For both incidents stated herein)

Section 420: Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property—Whoever cheats and thereby dishonestly induces the person de­ceived to deliver any property to any person, or to make, alter or destroy the whole or any part of a valuable security.

Section 425: Mischief—Whoever with intent to cause, or knowing that he is likely to cause, wrongful loss or damage to the public or to any person.

Section 467: Forgery of valuable security.

Section 468: Forgery for purpose of cheating.

Section 120B: Punishment of criminal conspiracy.

 


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