Nitish govt brings tougher prohibition law
Pouring cold water on tipplers’ hopes of once again savouring their drinks, the Bihar government on Sunday notified a new prohibition law which could land them in jail for up to seven years and make them poorer by Rs one lakh to Rs 10 lakh, two days after the Patna High Court quashed its order on banning alcohol consumption.
The government notified the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, ensuring that the ban on sale and consumption of alcohol, including Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), as well spiced and domestic liquor continued in the state despite the high court holding it “ultra vires of the Constitution”.
It also has a provision under which people who allow their premises to be used for a congregation where liquor is served and brawls take place will be imprisoned for a period of ten years which can be extended to life term.
At a special meeting of the state cabinet called on Gandhi Jayanti, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and other members of his Cabinet took a pledge to continue with prohibition which they said was “ushering in positive social change” in the state.
All adults of a family are liable to be arrested if liquor was found at their house. Collective fine would be slapped on villages and urban clusters in case of habitual violation of the prohibition law.
Seeking to address the concern of people about being falsely implicated in cases, the new law has provision for prosecution of an excise or police officer for making vexatious search, seizure, detention or arrest under the Act.
There is provision of three years’ jail and a penalty of Rs 1 lakh, or with both for such errant officers.
Principal Secretary (Cabinet Secretariat) Brajesh Mehrotra usually briefs the media about Cabinet decisions, but today Nitish Kumar informed reporters about the new law and fielded questions from them.
Kumar said the new law would be a real tribute to the father of the nation at a time when the state was readying for observing the centenary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagraha against the British rule from early 2017.
Governor Ram Nath Kovind had given his assent to the new law on September 7 after it was approved by the two Houses of the state legislature on August 4. After the gubernatorial nod for its enforcement, the state Cabinet had on September decided to notify it with effect from October 2.
Defending his government’s decision on prohibition, Kumar referred to the Supreme Court’s order that sale and consumption of liquor is not a fundamental right of a citizen.
“Besides it is in tune with the Directive Principles of the state policy. I am following Constitutional duty,” he said.
Kumar was dismissive about main opposition BJP asking the government not to take any hasty decision while bringing in a new prohibition law which might not pass legal scrutiny again.
“If opposition to liquor law by a leader for whom space is reserved in newspapers for his daily statements is meant only to see to it that it fails in the state, I have nothing to say. But if BJP or any citizen has to make some constructive suggestion against any provision of the liquor law, it is welcome,” he said, apparently referring to senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, a former deputy chief minister.
Moreover, he said, the Winter Session of Bihar legislature is not not far and any legislator who has to make some suggestion for more effective implementation of prohibition law can do so.