Bihar brings in new law banning liquor consumption, will challenge HC order
Bihar banned alcohol consumption on Sunday for a second time as it notified a stringent new law despite questions over its legality, two days after the Patna high court scrapped an earlier legislation.
Two days after the high court struck down prohibition, Bihar government on Sunday came out with a new and more stringent liquor-ban law with provisions such as arrest of all adults in the family if anyone consumes or stores alcohol.
The government notified the Bihar prohibition and excise act, 2016, to ensure that the ban on sale and consumption of alcohol, including Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL), continues in the eastern state.
Those flouting the ban face up to 10 years in jail, a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh and there is also a provision to confiscate the house or premises where liquor is stored or drunk. Though in a rare case, it also prescribes death penalty if people die after consuming hooch.
“Enforcement of the new law, calculated to impose prohibition in a holistic manner, would repeal the previous excise laws in the state,” chief minister Nitish Kumar said.
But experts say the new law – which contains many of the provisions of the law that was scrapped – will immediately be challenged in court.
Unfazed by the court setback, Kumar, whose poll promise of liquor ban helped him get re-elected a year ago, said prohibition was a step towards social transformation.
Addressing a press conference after chairing a special cabinet meeting that supported the ban, Kumar said the law was a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi whose 147 birth anniversary was celebrated on Sunday.
At least 16,000 people have been arrested in the state since prohibition was clamped on April 5. Those arrested include army jawans who were passing through the state and were carrying liquor bottles.
The new law -- described as draconian by many --- was not in contravention of the court order, Kumar said, as the provisions quashed were from the old law drawn from the Bihar excise act of 1915.
Quashing the April 5 notification that banned IMFL, the court said the order was “ultra vires to the Constitution, hence not enforceable”. The notification was issued four days after state banned country liquor.
The new prohibition law was passed by the assembly on August 4 and got the governor’s nod on September 7, the CM said. It was to be implemented the very next day but they decided to enforce it from Gandhi Jayanti.
Dismissing claims that prohibition infringed people’s rights, Kumar said even “the Supreme Court had observed that selling liquor or consumption was not a fundamental right of the citizens”.
Kumar said they would challenge the HC order in the Supreme Court as a lot of decisions had been taken in keeping with the old excise act.