Patna: Amid allegations of “ineffective implementation” of the prohibition law and recent hooch tragedies in Bihar, the state government is planning to amend the legislation to make it less stringent, a senior official said Wednesday.
A person who is caught drunk for the first time may not be arrested but let off after payment of a fine on the spot, said the official privy to the matter.
An amendment bill is likely to be tabled in the next session of the assembly in February.
“The government may bring certain changes in the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016. It is considering introducing a provision of financial penalty to relax the norms.
“People who are caught in a drunken state can be let off after paying a penalty on the spot. However, it will not be applicable to repeat offenders. Failure to pay the penalty will invite simple imprisonment of one month, but repeat offences may invite additional penalty or imprisonment or both,” the official said.
A person repeatedly violating the norms of liquor prohibition law would be liable to face a jail term.
The Nitish Kumar government is also considering a proposal to release a vehicle found involved in liquor violation by paying a penalty, said the official on condition of anonymity.
A proposal is also there to increase the number of courts in districts to deal with pending cases related to prohibition.
Additional Chief Secretary (home) Chaitanya Prasad told PTI: “The issue was discussed during inter-departmental consultations.”
The officials did not elaborate on the reason for amending the law enacted in 2016 to ban the manufacture, trade, storage, transportation, sale, and consumption of liquor in the state.
The chief minister has come under attack from both alliance partner BJP and opposition RJD following hooch tragedies in the state that have claimed more than 60 lives in the past six months.
Eleven people died in Nalanda district after consuming spurious liquor earlier this month. Around Deepawali last year, the state was rattled by hooch tragedies in a number of districts that claimed more than 40 lives.
Former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), an NDA constituent, has demanded that the prohibition law be repealed.
BJP spokesperson Arvind Kumar Singh had said, “If the liquor prohibition has failed in Bihar, it is due to officers who are not strictly enforcing it and are using it to extort money.”
The Supreme Court recently remarked that the liquor law was impacting the functioning of the judiciary in Bihar with 14-15 Patna High Court Judges only hearing the bail pleas relating to arrests made under the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act.
Despite repeated attempts by PTI, Prohibition and Excise Minister Sunil Kumar was not available for comments.