PATNA: Stopping the misuse of the provisions of Bihar’s stringent liquor ban law and bringing the punishments in proportion to the crime are the main aims of the state government’s move to amend the law, according to the draft amendment circulated among the MLAs.
The Nitish Kumar-led NDA government, which has faced massive criticism over the implementation of total prohibition, is slated to bring the amendment bill in the ongoing monsoon session of the state legislature. Nearly 1.5 lakh people have been arrested so far for offences under this law that was enforced in April 2016.
The Bihar Prohibition and Excise (Amendment) Bill, 2018 says that the changes are proposed “in order 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 draconian provisions of the law.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had said earlier that his government was considering certain amendments in the law by taking legal opinion on its provisions.
One of the proposed amendments is inclusion of a provision to allow people caught consuming alcohol to get bail at the police station itself. First-time offenders would now not be sent to jail as they would be released after paying a penalty of Rs 50,000. Failure to pay the sum would entail a three-month jail unlike the ten years’ jail under the existing law. Fine for people caught consuming alcohol for the second time is Rs 1 lakh or a year in jail.
The amendment Bill has done away with the provision of seizure of property of people caught consuming alcohol, but no such relief has been provided for those whose premises or vehicles are used to stock liquor. Significantly, the proposed amendments seek to withdraw the provisions for imposing community fines and externing the offenders from the district.
Total prohibition came into force in Bihar mainly as a response to the demands of rural women who used to suffer due to the widespread practice of consuming alcohol. The state government’s economic survey report said earlier this year that the sale of several items grew manifold after prohibition was enforced.