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Bihar to take sting out of booze woes

Bihar to take sting out of booze woes

Boozing in dry Bihar will no longer be brutally punishable offence. The Bihar Cabinet on Tuesday evening passed proposals to amend some of the “draconian” provisions of the Bihar Prohibition & Excise Act, 2016, and the amendments will provide some relief to the law-breakers.

If caught drunk or carrying alcohol for the first time, the person will be punished with a fine of Rs 50,000 and in case of non-payment of the fine s/he will  go to jail for three months. In the earlier provisions, all members of the household were arrested.

The decision to pass the proposals recommending removal of at least eight provisions from the Act, which came into force in April 2016 and which were termed as “draconian” and “Tughlaki” by some parties, including the BJP which then was in Opposition, was made in the Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

The Cabinet decision will be brought in the upcoming Monsoon Session, which will start on July 20, of the State legislature for its approval and then will be sent to the Governor for his nod on formal amendments in the Act.

The relaxation in the Act were much awaited as the CM had given some hints for the changes last month and two days back he said experts were studying the provisions which were or apprehended to be misused by the police and excise officials. The complaints coming in this regard were also studied. The experts committee after seeking the approval of the law department submitted its report to the CM on Monday, sources said.

The provision of collective fine on settlements where illicit liquor was manufactured has also been eliminated. But the life imprisonment or death sentence for manufacturers of hooch will continue.

The CM on completion of two years of total prohibition in April last said in two years a total of 1,27,489 people had been arrested but only 8,123 offenders were in jail. He said from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2018, a total of 6,83,370 raids were conducted by the Excise Department and police and 1,05,954 cases were registered. In that period 11.70 lakh litre country-made and 17.80 lakh litre foreign liquor was seized and destroyed.

There is political angle too behind giving the relaxation as people in general and particularly in the countryside were furious over the harsh punishments and had turned against Nitish even though the CM has been claiming that the total prohibition brought a silent revolution in the and people were living in peace and spending money, which they used to expend on boozing, on other things like milk, sweets, and purchasing household materials. But the electoral defeat in some by elections exposed the ground realities to him.



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