The Nitish Kumar government on Monday amended the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, diluting some of its stricter provisions, ANI reported. The state Cabinet had approved the amendments on July 12.
The prohibition law was enforced in April 2016, banning manufacture, sale or consumption of liquor in the state.
“The liquor ban was introduced for the poor people,” Chief Minister Kumar told the state Assembly on Monday. “They were wasting a major part of their income on buying alcohol. Domestic violence was high. I did this for the betterment of poor.”
The chief minister said that the amendments allow first-time offenders to walk free if they can pay a fine of Rs 50,000. Violators risked jail time under the previous legislation which made the offence non-bailable. First-time offenders will now have to serve three-months in jail if they fail to pay the fine.
The amendments relax provisions related to the seizure of house or vehicle where liquor is found and the arrest of all adult members of the family of an offender. “We do not want any innocent person to land in jail,” Kumar said.
Kumar said second-time offenders will be fined Rs 1 lakh fine and sentenced to five years in jail, The New Indian Express reported.
Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav criticised the state government’s decision claiming the changes are meant to benefit the rich. “Even after the liquor ban, people are caught with liquor stockpiles,” Yadav told reporters. “It should have been the responsibility of the Bihar government to ensure security on the state borders and get hold of the factories from where liquor is being supplied.”
In 2017, Kumar claimed that the liquor ban had brought down crime rate in the state and helped improve the state’s economy. In December, the Janata Dal (United) chief minister had called for a nationwide ban on the sale of alcohol.
More than 1.5 lakh people have been arrested till date for breaking the prohibition law in Bihar even as the Opposition has repeatedly criticised the government for failing to enforce the ban.
In April, Bihar Police arrested the son of Bharatiya Janata Party parliamentarian Hari Manjhi for allegedly consuming alcohol, The Indian Express reported. Manjhi claimed that he had alerted the police about villagers in West Nama violating the state’s anti-liquor law, but instead the police arrested his son Rahul Manjhi.