Can States Levy Excise Duty on Industrial Alcohol?


11:59 AM

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Can States Levy Excise Duty on Industrial Alcohol? Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • What is Excise Duty?
  • Excise Duty Levied on Alcohol
  • Can States Levy Excise Duty on Industrial Alcohol?
  • Has the SC Considered this Issue Earlier?
  • What are the Arguments Presented by the States?

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About Excise Duty (Meaning, Excise on Alcohol)
  • About the Case (Constitutional Provisions, SC’s Order, States’ Arguments, etc.)

What is Excise Duty?

  • Excise duty is a form of tax imposed on goods for their production, licensing and sale.
  • It is an indirect tax paid to the Government of India by producers of goods.
  • Excise duty is the opposite of Customs duty in that it applies to goods manufactured domestically in the country, while Customs is levied on those coming from outside of the country.
  • At the central level, excise duty earlier used to be levied as Central Excise Duty, Additional Excise Duty, etc.
  • However, the Goods and Services Tax (GST), introduction in July 2017, subsumed many types of excise duty. Today, excise duty applies only on petroleum and liquor.

Excise Duty Levied on Alcohol:

  • Excise duty levied on alcohol is a key component of a state’s revenue, with states often adding an additional excise duty on alcohol consumption to drive its income up.
    • For example, in 2023, Karnataka hiked the Additional Excise Duty (AED) on Indian Made Liquor (IML) by 20%.
  • However, when it comes to ‘industrial alcohol’, do states have the power to regulate and tax it?
  • Industrial alcohol is used as a raw material to create other products, and is not meant for human consumption.

Can States Levy Excise Duty on Industrial Alcohol?

  • A 9-judge Bench of the Supreme Courtis hearing arguments on whether state governments have the power to regulate and control the sale, distribution, pricing and other factors relating to industrial alcohol.
  • Entry 8 in the State List under the Seventh Schedule gives states the power to legislate on the production, manufacture, possession, transport, purchase and sale of intoxicating liquors.
  • At the same time, Entry 52 of the Union List, and Entry 33 of the Concurrent List mention industries, whose control is declared by Parliament by law to be expedient in public interest.
  • Notably, subjects in the Concurrent List can be legislated upon by both states and the Centre, but where a central law exists, the state law cannot be repugnant to it.
  • Industrial alcohol is listed in the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951 (IDRA).
  • Essentially, the question before the Supreme Court is whether states can regulate industrial alcohol or whether the Centre exercises exclusive control on the subject.

Has the SC Considered this Issue Earlier?

  • In 1989, a 7-judge Constitution Bench in Synthetics & Chemicals Ltd v. State of Uttar Pradesh held that states’ powers, as per Entry 8 of the State List, were limited to regulating “intoxicating liquors” which are different from industrial alcohol.
  • The SC acknowledged that states’ power to regulate consumable alcohol must include the power to “prevent and/ or check industrial alcohol being used as intoxicating or drinkable alcohol”.
  • But the court found that the taxes and levies in question were designed primarily to increase the revenue collected by the state — not as measures to regulate the use of industrial alcohol, or prevent its conversion to drinkable alcohol.
  • Essentially, the SC said that only the Centre can impose levies or taxes on industrial alcohol, which is not meant for human consumption.

What are the Arguments Presented by the States?

  • As per the arguments forwarded by States, the phrase intoxicating liquors in Entry 8 of the State List includes all liquids containing alcohol.
  • Liquor, spirit, and intoxicant were used in excise laws before the Constitution came into force.
  • Also, the Union’s power under Entry 52 of the Union List does not include control over finished products (such as industrial alcohol after the denaturation process).
  • In order to exercise exclusive control over regulation of industrial alcohol, the Centre would first have to issue an order to that effect under Section 18-G of the IDRA. Without such an order, that control would vest with the states.


  • Experts have cautioned against adopting an approach that would reduce states’ powers.
    • This was also highlighted by the apex court in ITC Ltd v Agricultural Produce Market Committee (2002).
    • The SC had held that states are not mere appendages of the Centre. The Centre cannot tamper with their powers.
  • Also, the courts should not adopt an approach, an interpretation, which has the effect of or tends to have the effect of whittling down the powers reserved to the States.

Q1. What is the difference between Tariff and Duty?

Tariffs are direct taxes levied on products coming from another country. On the other hand, duties are indirect taxes consumers of imported products have to pay.

Q2. Why GST is not applicable on Alcohol?

GST on alcohol was not charged. Rather, the alcohol or liquor was never brought under the purview of GST regime primarily due to two reasons: To ensure that the State Governments continue to have a strong inflow of revenue (other than what they get from GST).