The Bihar Cabinet on Wednesday approved proposed amendments to the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, diluting some of its stricter provisions, IANS reported. The amendments will be tabled during the monsoon session of the Assembly, which is set to begin from July 20.
“The Cabinet has given its nod to the proposal for amendments in the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016,” said Principal Secretary Arun Kumar Singh, according to The Indian Express.
The proposed amendments will relax some stringent provisions, including the arrest of first-time offenders, seizure of house or vehicle where liquor is found, and arrest of all adult members of a family of an offender.
First-time offenders will have to pay a fine of Rs 50,000, or spend three months in jail, The Times of India quoted Bihar Advocate General Lalit Kishore as saying. The first liquor offence will also be bailable and non-cognisable. “Second-time and subsequent offenders will be liable to two to five years in jail,” Kishore said.
Kishore said the government will do away with the current provision under which both owner and the occupant of a property or vehicle from where liquor was seized are liable to be punished. “The amendments propose shifting the onus primarily on the occupant. Once these amendments come into force, they will be applicable to new as well as pending cases,” he said, according to PTI.
The prohibition law was imposed in April 2016, under which manufacturing, sale or consumption of liquor was banned in the state. More than 1.5 lakh people have been arrested till date for breaking the law. The opposition in Bihar has repeatedly criticised the government over failure of prohibition law.
Admitting to the misuse of the provisions under the liquor law in the state, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had earlier said that his government was contemplating the amendments proposed based on people’s feedback. “The objective of the proposed amendments is to ensure that people are not harassed unnecessarily,” Kumar had said, according to The Indian Express.
On Tuesday, the Patna High Court pulled up the state government for seizing vehicles in which liquor was found. The High Court said there was no such provision under the Act.