New Delhi: The Bihar Assembly on Wednesday introduced and passed an amendment bill that seeks to make the liquor ban less stringent for first-time offenders in the state.
After the Bihar Prohibition and Excise (Amendment) Bill, 2022, gets the governor’s approval, first-time offenders will get bail from the duty magistrate after depositing a fine. However, if the person fails to pay it, he or she is liable to face a one-month jail term.
The government has not divulged the amount of the fine to be imposed on first-time offenders.
The House passed the bill, tabled by Prohibition and Excise Minister Sunil Kumar, after rejecting several amendment proposals moved by opposition members.
Innocent persons will not be harassed, while the guilty ones will not be spared, the minister said while introducing the bill.
The Nitish Kumar government was planning to amend the prohibition law amid allegations of ineffective implementation of the legislation and hooch tragedies in Bihar.
The Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, was enacted to ban the manufacture, trade, storage, transportation, sale, and consumption of liquor in the state.
As per the amendment bill, moveable and immoveable assets of arrested liquor traders would be confiscated while frequent drinkers would be fined as well as imprisoned.
Vehicles used for the liquor trade would also be confiscated and will be later auctioned.
Talking to reporters outside the assembly, opposition Congress Legislative Party leader Ajeet Sharma said, The amended law will further strengthen the nexus between the police and liquor mafia in the state. The bill was passed without accepting amendment proposals moved by us.
Claiming that the government move proved that its prohibition policy has failed, RJD MLA Rishi Kumar said that it should be ended now.
Smuggling of liquor is going on, people are dying and the state is losing revenue…. The CM is working under pressure of liquor mafia, he said.
The chief minister has come under attack from both alliance partner BJP and opposition RJD following hooch tragedies in the state that claimed more than 60 lives in the last six months of 2021.
Around Diwali last year, the state was rattled by hooch tragedies in a number of districts that claimed more than 40 lives.
Former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), an NDA constituent, had demanded that the prohibition law be repealed.
The BJP had alleged that officers are not strictly enforcing the prohibition law and are using it to extort money from people.
A large number of people are in jail only for liquor consumption and the majority of them belong to economically weaker sections of society.
The Supreme Court had also remarked last year that the liquor law was impacting the functioning of the judiciary in Bihar with 14-15 Patna High Court Judges only hearing the bail pleas relating to arrests made under the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act.