The Bihar government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it will amend its stringent prohibition law in the next Assembly session, PTI reported.

The amendment to the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, proposes that the punishment for first-time drinkers be reduced to a fine instead of jail term, The Indian Express reported.

A counsel of the state government made the submission after the court criticised the government for passing the law without studying its legislative impact. The court had noted that the judicial system has been clogged with bail applications of people accused under the law.

On February 25, a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh had asked the state if it had undertaken a legislative impact study before passing the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, to ascertain if the judicial infrastructure could handle the litigation that would arise, according to the Hindustan Times.

The judges had observed that 16 of 26 judges of the Patna High Court are hearing cases pertaining to the prohibition law. The bench also noted that denying bail to the accused persons would result in prisons being crowded.

The court had directed the Bihar government to submit if it had assessed the social, economic and institutional effects of the law before passing it.

Citing Bihar Police records, the Hindustan Times reported that till October 2021, as many as 3,48,170 cases had been registered and 4,01,855 had been arrested under the prohibition law since it had been passed in 2016. Around 20,000 bail pleas were pending in trial courts of the Patna High Court.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the law is leading to crowding in jails.

“Rectify it or we would say that release everybody on bail till rectification is done,” said the bench, according to PTI.

The Bihar government’s advocate, Ranjit Kumar, told the Supreme Court that an amendment will be introduced in the next Assembly session to “make the law more efficacious”.

The proposed amendment to the law empowers the police and excise department to consider relaxation in the punishment if drinkers identify the source of liquor purchase, The Indian Express reported.

The amendments focus on liquor traders and smugglers, whose property can be confiscated during trial stages. Vehicles that are used to sell liquor will be auctioned.