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Synthetics and Chemicals Ltd vs. State of U.P (1990): A Defining Moment in Industrial Alcohol Regulation

The Synthetics and Chemicals Ltd vs. State of U.P (1990) is one of the landmark judgments in Indian judicial history, specifically pertaining to the regulation and control over industrial alcohol. The judgment had far-reaching implications on the alcohol industry in India and reshaped the dynamics between state regulatory powers and industries involved in the production of alcohol for non-potable purposes.

1. Background of the Case

The primary contention arose between various alcohol-producing companies and the State of Uttar Pradesh over the regulatory controls imposed by the State on industrial alcohol. The State had assumed control over the production, possession, and sale of both potable and non-potable alcohol, resulting in challenging conditions for industries producing industrial alcohol.

2. Key Issues Addressed

  • State’s Control over Industrial Alcohol: The industries contested that the State should not have the same level of regulatory control over industrial alcohol (used for non-potable purposes like medicines, chemicals, etc.) as it has over potable alcohol.
  • Economic Constraints: Industries argued that the undue control and high levies imposed by the State were resulting in economic hardships for businesses involved in the production of non-potable alcohol.

3. The Court’s Verdict

The Supreme Court of India gave a judgment in favor of the industries. The key takeaways from the verdict were:

  • The State can regulate potable alcohol under the ambit of public interest, but the same level of stringent control cannot be imposed on industrial alcohol, which is primarily used for medicinal and industrial purposes and not for human consumption.
  • The court recognized the importance of industrial alcohol as a crucial element for various industries and stated that undue control would hinder the growth of such industries, which are of paramount importance for the nation’s development.

4. Significance of the Judgment

  • Demarcation of Powers: The judgment provided a clear demarcation of the State’s powers concerning the regulation of potable and non-potable alcohol.
  • Boost to Industries: By reducing the regulatory controls on industrial alcohol, industries involved in its production were provided with a more conducive environment for growth and expansion.
  • Constitutional Interpretation: The judgment also touched upon the broader aspects of the interpretation of the Constitution, emphasizing that regulatory powers should be in line with the broader goals of national development and industrial growth.

5. Broader Implications

  • National Policy Impact: The judgment had an impact on the national policy concerning the regulation of alcohol, leading to a clearer distinction between potable and non-potable alcohol in regulatory terms.
  • Industrial Growth: The verdict paved the way for the growth of industries reliant on industrial alcohol, as they were now free from undue controls and levies.
  • State Revenue Considerations: While the judgment was a win for industries, it also led to discussions and debates about States’ revenue generation, as many states relied heavily on revenues from alcohol regulations.


The Synthetics and Chemicals Ltd vs. State of U.P (1990) judgment stands as a testament to the judiciary’s role in striking a balance between state control and industrial growth. By recognizing the pivotal role of industrial alcohol and differentiating it from potable alcohol, the Supreme Court of India provided a roadmap for the harmonious coexistence of state regulatory interests and industrial growth imperatives. The case remains a reference point for discussions on industrial regulations and state control dynamics in India.

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow

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