The Bihar Assembly passed the Bihar Prohibition and Excise (Amendment) Bill, 2018 on July 23, 2018 to amend some of the stringent provisions of the prohibition law in order to prevent its misuse and make the quantum of punishment proportionate to the nature of offence.
While the prohibition was introduced in the state with unanimous support from the parties, the opposition, which was seeking the declaration of Bihar as ‘drought-hit’, staged a walkout before the bill was taken up for consideration.
The main objective of the bill is to stop misuse of provisions of the law against the innocent and bring the punishment in proportion to the crime. The bill contains 16 amendments that offer relief to people found violating the various provisions of the law.
Amended Law: Key Highlights
• The prohibition law earlier provided for a five-year prison term and a fine of Rs 1lakh, for those consuming liquor or caught in an inebriated state.
• With the current amendment, the first-time offenders will have to pay a fine of Rs 50,000, failing which, they will have to undergo a prison term of three months. The offence has now been made bailable.
• On the other hand, the repeat offenders will be punished with a prison term of not less than a year and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh.
• Those causing disturbance or violence in an inebriated state or facilitating consumption of liquor on their premises will continue to attract a prison term not shorter than five years and penalty of not less than Rs 1 lakh.
• For those guilty of manufacture, storage and illegal trade in liquor, the prohibition law earlier provided for a maximum term of life imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh.
• Under the new amendment, the first offence of this nature will be punishable with a prison sentence of at least five years and a fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh, while subsequent offences will be punishable with a prison term of at least 10 years and a fine of not less than Rs 5 lakh.
• The new amendment would also remove the provision for imposition of a collective fine and banishing of notorious and habitual offenders from a district.
• It also removes the provision for booking all the adult members of a household if liquor is found in the house.
On November 26, 2015, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had announced that all types of alcohol would be banned in the state from April 1, 2016. A complete ban on all liquor items was declared on April 5, 2016.
The ban, however, gave rise to illicit liquor trade in the state, as it had in Gujarat when the state had taken a similar step.
Last week, the state cabinet, chaired by Nitish Kumar, approved the amendments to the prohibition law, with a special focus on removal of stringent provisions like sending the entire family to jail if liquor is found in their house.
After repeated criticism from the opposition over prohibition-related issues, the state’s Chief Minister admitted that some of the bill’s provisions were being misused and announced that the law would be amended.
More than 1.5 lakh persons have been arrested till date for violating the prohibition in Bihar since its imposition
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