After facing severe criticism from various quarters calling the prohibition in Gujarat a farce and a campaign to scrap it, Chief Minister Narendra Modi has an answer.
The government on Wednesday announced it’d introduce an amendment Bill to enable a court to go to the extent of imposing capital punishment on those causing death due to consumption of illicit liquor.
“The government has resolved to deal strictly with all who try to cause harm to 5.5 crore Gujarati citizens, be it bootlegger or terrorist,” an official statement said. The Bill proposes to bring within its purview manufacturers, transporters, stockists, sellers and possessors of illicit liquor.
The punishment for causing deaths would range from a minimum of seven years (it is now three) to the death penalty.
The Bill would be brought before the assembly in its ongoing session, the statement said.
The move comes in the wake of the state’s biggest hooch tragedy, which claimed 130 lives in Ahmedabad last week.
It comes at a time when a commission under a retired judge is looking into various aspects of prohibition in the state. Clearly, it points to an anxious Modi wanting to silence critics and dampen the spirits of an upbeat Opposition.
“Though many such incidents occurred during previous regimes, there was no action or improvement in laws. We thought it is time for strict action,” a cabinet minister who did not want to be named told HT.
The Congress saw the move as a stunt by Modi.
“The law would be in place but who it punishes is the question. There would not be much difference if it punishes small people like bootleggers and leaves the actual culprits,” Shaktisinh Gohil, Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly, told HT.