The Himachal Pradesh assembly on Wednesday passed an excise bill proposing stringent punishment up to death, in case the sale of spurious liquor results in the death of a consumer.
The bill has been sent to the President for approval before it becomes a law.
The President’s nod is needed because certain provisions of the bill relate to portions of some central laws.
Sources said the bill is aimed at curtailing the illicit flow of liquor from neighbouring states and providing stringent punishment for liquor traffickers and bootleggers.
According to government estimates, the state is losing over Rs 50 crore annually because of liquor smuggling from neighboring states.
An official in the excise department said low levies on spirits in Chandigarh seemed to be resulting in increasing smuggling of cheap liquor from there to the hill state.
He said the levy on a bottle of liquor was around Rs 88 in Himachal Pradesh and only Rs 15 in Chandigarh.
The official said the new act would empower excise officials to establish posts or barriers to check illegal transport of liquor.
Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, who also holds the excise and taxation portfolio, introduced the bill. “In order to curb the rising illicit trafficking in liquor, it is also considered essential to make more effective and stringent provisions in relations to penalties, confiscation, of liquor and conveyances used in committing offences,” he said.
The bill prohibits liquor shops from employing persons less than 18 years of age. Drinking in public places could attract a fine between Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000.
It also seeks action against vehicles transporting illegal liquor, which will be impounded and auctioned.