Listen to this article
The connotations of consuming liquor in Bihar are becoming more egregious with time. From being considered just a social evil earlier, drinking alcohol is now a “mahapaap” (eternal sin) in the lexicon of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Not just that, a tippler in Bihar is working against the principles of Mahatma Gandhi, who opposed liquor consumption and thus is not considered to be an Indian.
The baffling claims were made in the Bihar Assembly while defending against the claims by the Opposition in his government’s failings to control deaths from liquor consumption. He said people consume spurious liquor despite knowing that it is harmful, and thus, they are responsible for the consequences, not the state government. He also absolved the responsibility of the state government in providing relief to their families in cases of death and illness. Hooch tragedies in the state have resulted in more than 60 deaths in the last six months of 2021.
Nitish Kumar has been in the line of fire by the Opposition and the judiciary in his government’s handling of the liquor ban imposed in the state in 2016. The Bihar cabinet on Wednesday introduced and passed an amendment bill that seeks to make the liquor ban less stringent for first-time offenders in the state.
What is the Amendment Bill?
The Bill is the third amendment to the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 which enforces the complete prohibition of liquor and intoxicants in Bihar. Under the Bihar Prohibition and Excise (Amendment) Bill, 2022, 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 Amendment Bill also provides for the police and excise department to consider relaxation (including the waiver of fine) if drinkers disclose the name of the seller. The Bill will now be sent to the Governor for approval and will be converted into law upon acceptance.
What was the need for the Amendment Bill?
The Bihar Chief Minister imposed a liquor ban in April 2016 in the state through the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act. The ban led to the immediate crowding of jails. All of Bihar’s jails have an inmate capacity of 47,000 but now have around 70,000 inmates with almost 25,000 booked under the liquor law itself.
The number of arrests has led to a drastic increase in the case backlog in courts. Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana cited the ban as an example of a lack of foresight. "There are three lakh cases pending in the courts. It is taking up to a year for the listing of the case in the courts. All courts are busy disposing of bailable cases," he said. As per the Supreme Court’s comments last year, almost 15 Patna High Court Judges are only hearing the bail pleas relating to arrests made under the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act.
The ban also increased instances of corruption and harassment of poor people. The majority of the violators belonged to the economically weaker sections (EWS) and were prone to extortion by local police.
TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE
Get full access to the exciting content on The Mirrority by logging in
Support independent journalism
Even the very best of media houses in our country today are yielding to the pressure of click-bait journalism in order to survive. More than ever before, our country needs journalism that is independent, fair and non-pliant to the bureaucracy. Such journalism needs the support of like-minded readers like you to help us survive editorially and financially.
Whether you live in India or India lives inside you, help us continue to produce quality journalism with your contribution.CONTRIBUTE