The amendments boil down the punishment to the first-time offenders to just a fine and not arrest as before.
Patna: Days after Chief Justice of India N V Ramana criticised the Bihar government for its liquor policy and said the provisions are clogging the jails, the Bihar government Tuesday informed the court that the cabinet has approved the amendments to the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016. The amendments boil down the punishment to the first-time offenders to just a fine and not arrest as before.
The amendments also include seizure of movable and immovable assets of liquor traders while frequent drinkers will be fined and also sent to jail.
Interestingly, the proposed amendments also provides the law enforcing authorities like the police and the excise department to give relaxation to an offender, including waiver of the fine amount, if the accused manages to identify the source of the liquor.
Although the fine amount on first-time drinkers has not been decided upon yet, the amount will be reasonable said sources. An official stressed that the idea is to decongest the jails. However, if a first-time drinker fails to cough up the penalty amount, the accused may face a simple imprisonment of one year.
In an extension, a bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M M Sundresh had observed that the trial court and the High Court are both getting over crowded by bail applications to an extent that at some stage 16 judges of the High Court are listening to bail matters and prosecutions under the Act.
In the proposed amendments, it is clear that the focus is more on the liquor traders and smugglers. While their properties can be confiscated, the vehicles used in the smuggling can be auctioned.
The amendments also come in the backdrop of hooch deaths. More than 50 persons had died across the state in several districts after consuming spurious liquor and the Opposition had trained its guns at the ruling JDU-BJP alliance in Bihar.