Bihar government on 2 October 2016 notified Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016. This new liquor ban could land drinkers in jail for up to 7 years with a fine of at least 1 lakh rupees.
The notification came two days after the Patna High Court quashed its order on banning alcohol consumption. The High Court quashed it by terming its provisions as ultra vires of the Constitution.
The decision of notification was taken in a special cabinet meeting which was chaired by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Chief Minister said that after imposition of ban on liquor in the state financial condition of the people has been strengthened and behavioural social change across the state is being seen.
As per reports, the state government has decided to approach the Supreme Court against the Patna High Court’s order that quashed the state’s April 5 notification related to amendments in the old Excise Act.
Some provisions of the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016
• The act creates a framework for the levy of excise duty and imposes a prohibition on alcohol in Bihar.
• Prohibition on the manufacture, sale, storage and consumption of alcohol was imposed in Bihar earlier in 2016, by amending the Bihar Excise Act, 1915. The Bill replaces the 1915 Act and the Bihar Prohibition Act, 1938.
• It imposes a prohibition on the manufacture, bottling, distribution, transportation, collection, storage, possession, sale and consumption of alcohol or any other intoxicant specified by the state government. However, it also allows the state government to renew existing licenses, or allow any state owned company to undertake any of these activities (such as manufacture, distribution, etc.).
• It calls for at least 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of at least one lakh rupees to the family members and occupants of a land or a building as offenders.
Constitutional provisions that seems to be violated by the Act are
The provisions of the Act violate Article 12 and Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Article 14 talks of the equality before law. It protects individuals from any arbitrary actions of the state. One may argue that imposition of criminal liability on family members and owner or occupants of the building, for the action of another person is arbitrary in nature.
Article 21 talks of about the protection of life and personal liberty in which no person should be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. The meaning of the same interpreted by the Courts is that any procedure established by law should be fair and reasonable. It needs to be examined whether presuming that family members of an offender, and owner or occupant of the building knew about the offence, and making them criminally liable, is reasonable.
The interesting fact about the Act is that it calls for at least 10 years of imprisonment. But under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 the imprisonment of at least 10 years is attracted in crimes such as use of acid to cause injury, or trafficking of a minor. Other states where a prohibition is imposed calls for a lower imprisonment terms for offences of alcohol. Gujarat calls for at least seven years and Nagaland calls for maximum three years of imprisonment.
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When: 2 October 2016
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