PATNA: In an indictment of Bihar’s Nitish Kumar-led government, Patna High Court on Wednesday revoked the ban on production of industrial spirit by distilleries in the state.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Rajendra Menon found merit in the contention of the petitioners, a group of distilleries operating in the state, that the spirit they produce is widely used in different industries and that it is not confined to the manufacturing of alcoholic liquor.
“The state government has no right to ban the production of spirit as it is used in various other industries apart from making liquor,” the high court said in its verdict on the petition filed by Global Spirit Limited and others challenging the state government’s decision.
In January, a few days before organising a state-wide human chain in support of total prohibition enforced in Bihar, the Nitish Kumar-led government had decided not to renew the licence of liquor manufacturing units in the state for 2017-18. The government had also issued a notification banning the production of spirit in the state.
The government’s decision was reportedly aimed at neutralising caustic criticism from the state’s main Opposition party BJP which had been dubbing the total prohibition as “hypocritical” due to the continuing production of alcoholic beverages in Bihar. Total prohibition has been in force in Bihar since April 2016. Consumption, distribution, sale, purchase and possession of alcoholic beverages is punishable under a law described by many as draconian.
The HC verdict brought relief to the 13 distilleries operating in the state. “Spirit manufacturers had made massive investments in the state in the months before total prohibition was imposed. Now, their investment is not going to be wasted,” said Satyaveer Bharti, the lawyer who argued the case for the distilleries in the high court.
The state government, however, may appeal against the HC verdict in the Supreme Court. “We are yet to receive a copy of the high court verdict. We will study it and decide the next course of action,” said Neeraj Kumar, spokesperson of the ruling JD (U).